I keep on looking at the blog entries about the subject and I realized that I’ve never celebrated a traditional Lent season. I remember the Ash Wednesday Evening service that my church had, some discussion on giving something up for fourty days – but ever since the move to the new state, Lent has just never worked out.
To be fair, the entire state has been closed for half of the week – way too much snow, way too many dangerous back roads that haven’t seen a plow. Even if we could have gotten out, all the churches would have been closed anyway.
Denominationally speaking, my former church didn’t officially practice anything during Lent. We ate whatever sort of meat we liked any day of the week and there wasn’t anything special about the forty days before Easter that I can recall. My new church has a spectacular website that says: Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others…Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.
Now I understand why my former denomination didn’t officially practice it, they were famous for food-oriented fellowship. They’d do just about anything to get out of fasting, so they basically give a nod to Lent and go about their day. My new church might celebrate it more formally, but it’s safe to say that we’ve missed the start of it. It’s been my policy to sit out pretty much all new things the first time around, just to see how they work, so perhaps next year we’ll see how they go all-out or to what degree it is celebrated.
Of course, I said all that to say that it remains to be said that some element of ritual and tradition are more common in liturgy-oriented churches than those outside of it. I always admired the spiritual rituals of other faiths and yet I’ve never gotten to know all the ones that exist within my own faith.
Honestly though, I’ve been having trouble connecting to God. It’s been a tough spiritual season. I have had to come to terms that there are no churches in this area that check every single box off of the list. I have also had to come to terms that the Bible isn’t as clear cut as I was taught. Perhaps that’s the draw of Lent for me right now, as a way to refocus my attention away from the obstacles that have kept me from moving forward.
Ritual, I think, does that. I remember visiting a church very south of the border where it was a ritual to light a candle and pray. There were so many people there that we were constantly bumping into each other on the way to the candle-burning area. It didn’t seem peaceful or relaxing or particularly spiritual to me at the time, but it was something that my church would have never done so I found it fascinating.
I think the trick is not to focus on the thing you’re doing, but the one you’re doing the thing for. And that, to me, is Lent.