Today begins one of the two seasons we (in the west) still bother to pay attention to in the Liturgical (Church) Year. We have Advent right before Christmas (how else would we countdown to Santa?) and Lent for the seven-ish weeks leading up to Easter (because everyone needs to slow their caffeine intake every now and again).
Snark aside, Lent is upon us. And while contemporary practice is more about healthifying than slowing and Passion, it might be something different for us. If we want it to be.
The Liturgical Calendar is one of the ancient rhythms of church, a rhythm which provides space and provocation for remembering what is Real in this up-turned world of ours. Lent and Advent are a part of this rhythm, but traditionally their observance was much more than logging out of Facebook or lighting a wreath.
And sadly, we’ve now associated those things with the names of the liturgical seasons for so long that the words Lent and Advent no longer whisper of their depths. It’s like we’ve filled a red plastic cup with water at the beach and are calling it the Pacific Ocean.
It is. And yet, it isn’t.
What Lent and Advent (and the whole Calendar) really offer is a rhythm of remembering. They give us the chance to step into stride with the great cloud of witnesses and take a deep inhale of Better Things.
I don’t know about you, but I need that. I want that.
Observing Lent & Advent was clumsy at first, though. Whatever their religious dressings, they had always been used primarily as a countdown to the next major holiday. I didn’t know anyone who actually practiced them with daily observances. So I just had to figure it out as I went along.
Last year was a new kind of year, though. Margaret Feinberg invited any who would to read the entire Bible with her during the 40 days of Lent. (Yes, the whole thing.) I knew immediately I should do it. I didn’t feel obligated or pressured, just invited. I shared the invitation with a few other friends, and together we set off.
It was quite a stretch, honestly. And I didn’t finish by Easter. But I didn’t care. I’d jumped in. I’d acted. I’d said yes, created life-space, and was enjoying the Scriptures in a way I hadn’t in a long time. And when I finished, I knew I should do it again the following year.
And now next year is here. And it just so happens that the 40 days of Lent coincide with the busiest month my life has seen in nearly five years. As things stand, it will require a loaves-and-fishes miracle to meet all the aims of this month. It feels like I can’t possibly fit in one more thing, let alone one more thing that requires an hour or more a day. But I remember what it felt like to finish the Story in spring of last year, and I’m coming back for more of that.
This year again, I’ll be reading the Bible during Lent. More specifically, I’ll be listening to it. (I don’t know if you’ve ever just closed your eyes and listened to the Story, but it’s absolutely worth doing.)
Of course, there is still so much more to Lent (or any church season) than adding an extra dose of religion to everyday life. But we start where we are, you know? Otherwise we don’t start at all.
So I’m starting here. At the beginning.
Do you have any special practices in mind for Lent this year? Please share!