Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the season of Lent.
"During the forty days of Lent, God's baptized people cleanse their hearts through the discipline of Lent: repentance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent is a time in which God's people prepare with joy for the Paschal Feast (Easter). It is a time in which God renews His people's zeal in faith and life. It is a time in which we pray that we may be given the fullness of grace that belongs to the children of God" (TDP, p. 26).
Lent has always been my favorite time of the Church Year. I love the Lenten hymns and their minor keys -- keys which serve well to carry the rich texts of repentance and Christ's sufficient sacrifice. I love the clear preaching of repentance, followed by the sweet comfort of Christ crucified for me (and you!). The services incorporate rich ceremony that points us to Christ and His passion. All in all, it would suit me just fine to have the season of Lent incorporate much more time...but then, that too would be short sided.
While the season of Lent, and its spiritual disciplines, is good, right and salutary it must give way to the joy of the Easter Victory -- the empty tomb, Satan's clear defeat, Christ's resurrection. But...not yet.
First...there must be a cross. First there must be a crucifixion. First there must be hell. First there must be a death...For Christ.
And for you.
The path that Jesus takes in His passion, is the path that each Christian takes in his or her life. To follow Jesus is to pick up our own cross. To follow Jesus is to be Baptized into His crucifixion, and to die with Him. This is what Lent is all about. Dying with Jesus in repentance. A return to the drowning death of our Baptism...so...
His life would become ours!
Have a blessed Lent. Amen.