By: Mags Blackie

 

Lent is a season of prayer and fasting. It begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts until Holy Thursday. Many people think that Lent ends on Easter Sunday with the great celebration of the resurrection. This is not correct. In fact, it ends with the celebration of the Easter Triduum which begins on the evening of Holy Thursday with the commemoration of the Last Supper.

Why do we observe Lent?

The obvious answer is as a preparation for Easter. One can consider the simple liturgical theatrics. In Lent there are no joyful acclamations – the use of alleluia in the gospel acclamation is substituted and the Gloria is removed from the Mass. The vestments are purple and the music, if there is any, is supposed to be both simple and subdued. With the start of the Easter season we switch to triumphant white vestments, with an accompanying explosion of joyful acclamation and resounding music.

Lent traditionally involves three facets – fasting, prayer and almsgiving. And so the questions most of us pose to ourselves are

a) what should I give up?

b) what prayer practice should I take on

and c) what charitable donation will I give?

In many Catholic parishes not terribly much thought needs to be given – I’ll give up chocolate (or some other nonessential treat type food or drink); I attend adoration or the parish mission or whatever extra communal prayer the parish puts on; and I’ll put some money in the Lenten appeal envelopes.

All boxes happily checked – roll on Easter! Notice though – this is probably the same way that you engaged with Lent since you were about 10 years old. The only indicator that you are now an adult may be substitution of an alcoholic beverage for chocolate!

So, is there another approach which could be more spiritually satisfying. What if we start with a consideration of Easter?

Thinking forward to significant parts of the Triduum – the commemoration of the Eucharist and washing of the feet on Holy Thursday; the solemnity of Good Friday as we consider the death of Jesus; and the Easter Vigil where we have the retelling of salvation history, the renewal of one’s baptismal promises and the celebration of the resurrection.

Where do I sit today, with respect to those things? Is there something in my life at the moment which is disrupting my ability to be present to Jesus through his Passion. Where am I in my relationship with God? Maybe the thing I should be fasting from is some aspect of my life which is causing a separation between me and God. Pope Francis this year has spoken about giving up indifference to others for Lent. Maybe this is a good start; maybe I need to give up gossip; maybe I should give up putting myself into a particular situation where I regularly find myself doing things which I know are not good for me; maybe there is something else?

Some Lenten suggestions

Is there some particular invitation from God to me this Lenten season? Is there some facet of Easter which I haven’t really considered before? Am I feeling particularly attracted to one particular aspect? If my attraction is to the Eucharist then perhaps my additional prayer time can be best spent in adoration. Or maybe I should use the Last supper discourse from John’s gospel as my spiritual reading over Lent (John 14 – 17). Perhaps one could slowly digest the Scripture using lectio divina. Maybe I realise that it is renewal of my proclamation of faith which is attractive, in which case, perhaps reading them over at the beginning of each day and reflecting on how I have lived up to those promises each evening is good practice. I can use a variation of the Examen to look back over my day. If I am drawn to Good Friday, maybe using the stations of the cross might be a good entry for me.

The key here is to ask myself what grace it is that I am desiring this Easter. Where do I feel God’s invitation to me? Where do I feel drawn to focus? And what prayer practice most supports that desire?

And finally with respect to almsgiving – for me for Lent this year – where will I give the little extra? Is it just about the money or is there an aspect of time too?

A final caution

Don’t try and do Lent ‘well’ and think that that will guarantee a flood of grace at Easter! Give what you can and trust that God’s grace does not depend on your efforts. Do what you can for the love of God and there will be grace in good time. Don’t look for a flood of emotion at Easter. Rather write down your thoughts and intentions now, and at Pentecost come back to your desires and see what has happened in your relationship with God.


About the AuthorMags

Mags Blackie

Mags Blackie is the author of ‘Rooted in Love: integrating Ignatian spirituality into daily life’. By day she is an academic in the Department of Chemistry and Poly
mer Science at Stellenbosch University. In her spare time she gives spiritual direction. She blogs at magsblackie.com

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