|What is Lent ?|
What is Lent?
By Father Shane
This time of year is normally packed with activity in Church circles. Easter is celebrated is very early this year, in fact it is almost as early as it can be. Before the feast of the resurrection there is the annual round up of Lent. Traditionally Lent was associated with penance, prayer and the trocaire box. Nowadays, the rigors of fasting and extra prayers seem to be a thing of the past. But what does Lent mean for the average Christian? For Lent 2008 the parish of Tullamore has decided to put an added emphasis on this season. The forty days are being presented as a unique opportunity for change and growth and the over all theme is “come back!”
The origins of Lent are in the Scriptures, remembering the forty days Jesus Christ spent in the desert being tempted by the devil. It was His preparation was for the beginning of His public ministry, culminating in His Passion, death and Resurrection. The Christian season of Lent is a time of conversion and renewal in the run up to Easter. Like Christ’s forty days it is about preparation
So what about the ‘giving up’ is that all gone? The basic answer is no! Lent gives us a chance to look honestly at life, in general, and also our life in God. The ‘giving up’ or fasting is not done for its own sake, it is as part of the bigger picture of conversion.
The Trocaire box is synonymous with Lent, and has been for over twenty-five years. Tullamore, in recent years, has been extraordinarily generous when it comes to this cause. The Lenten campaign this year is “Climate change affects everyone… but not equally.” Focusing on the issues of global climate change and on the fact that this change has much more serious implications for the developing world. The campaign hopes to help countries in these parts of the world to prepare to meet the challenges of climatic variability.
The Church of Ireland Union of Parishes is a busy place during Lent. Tullamore will be holding ‘Lent groups’ on Tuesday evenings in St Catherine’s rectory at 8pm. The theme for this course is “prayer for beginners and for those who have forgotten how!” Lent for Anglicans, according to the rector Rev Gerald Field is an important time. Along with the schedule of Sunday services, here is Morning Prayer on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each day at 10am in Hophill.
The Presbyterian and Methodist churches do not follow the strict liturgical calendar of the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions, Lent however is a time of personal preparation for Easter. “Many people on my circuit comment that the preparation for Christmas is material, but preparation for Easter is much more spiritual” comments Rev. Colin Gracie, the Methodist minister in Tullamore and Birr. “People have a chance to do a ‘spiritual stock take’ at this time. This results in entering much more deeply into the celebration of Easter. Lent is a time to ask the big questions of faith, of personal journey examining the characteristics of faith. We can ask ourselves what needs to be changed.” Colin believes that the interaction between the different traditions of faith opens us to a deeper understanding of our relationship with God. “It’s not uncommon for people to say that they get more out of Easter than Christmas because of this time of reflection”
Both Colin and Rev. William Hayes, the local Presbyterian minister, have been instrumental in organizing an inter-church “Way of the Cross” on Good Friday in Tullamore in recent years. This is a very real way for all Christians to celebrate their faith in Christ crucified and risen.
So, how should we approach Lent? The more you put in, the more you get back would seem to be the logic of the season. In a time when we are enjoying great economic prosperity and affluence, the sobriety of Lent reminds us the important things of life. Community celebration and personal preparation are the two pillars on which the Christian spirituality is based. We journey as individuals, but as part of God’s family. The Italian phrase ‘il popolo in cammino’ (a people on a journey) sums up exactly the nature of the Church. When we remember that we are not alone, that we are part of a shared experience of life and faith, the struggles we face can become a little easier. As we begin the journey of Lent, we should reflect on the fact that we are part of God’s plan for the world. We often bemoan the state of the world we live in, and more often than we seem unable to offer nothing in response. It is hard to imagine changing the world. Michael Jackson’s song ‘Man in the mirror’ says “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change!” By fasting a little, praying a little more and by giving to those who could do with our help, by remembering we are all God’s wonderful children we make the change. That is the meaning on Lent.