Dear Holy Trinity Family,
This Sunday will be the First Sunday in Lent. As I said on Ash Wednesday, I need the season of Lent. God has consistently used it to form my faith in Jesus Christ for many years. I believe the same can happen for you this year, because the Lord is delighted when we return to him, rending our hearts not our garments (Joel 2:13). Therefore, I am writing to help you think rightly about this season and to give you some helpful resources.
First, you need to know, in case you don’t, the word Lent is rooted in the Anglo-Saxon word lectentid, which literally means “springtide.” It was also the word for “March,” the month in which the majority of Lent falls.
Why do you need to know that? Because Lent ought not be a cold, dark, lifeless, winter of a season for you. But rather a spring for your soul, where darkness is giving way to light and death is being overcome by renewal of life. As we look out onto the beauty of Creation, we see winter giving way to spring, darkness to light, and dormancy to fresh, new growth. By the grace of God, may the same be happening in our souls these forty days.
I bring this to light (pun intended) because I worry about what you might do with Lent. Or, worse, what you might let Lent do with you. This is not a time for self-inflicted agony. This not a time for overly anxious introspection. Nor is this a time for pietistic self-sacrifice which, if we’re honest, is often only self-centered, pseudo-sacrifice (as in, fasting to get closer to God but wouldn’t it be great to drop a few pounds in time for summer!).
The purpose of Lent is not to obligate you to such things. The purpose of Lent is to soften your hearts that they might be awakened to their hunger and thirst for union with God.
Bright sadness are the words theologian Alexander Schmemann used to describe it. There is a bright sadness in the air during Lent. The music will reflect the somber themes of the season. The Alleluias have all been put away until Easter.
This is the time for purification from our sad sins, yes. But it also a time for enlightenment. It is a time to battle the devil, yes. But we do so in order for the fruits of the Holy Spirit to blossom into a spring-time for our souls.
While we lament our sins that cut us off from God we are not to grieve as those without hope because we know it was through our Lord's death and resurrection that he secured the forgiveness of our sins and the hope of eternal life.
Thus, the bright sadness of Lent seeks to help us feel like death row inmates whose liberation draws near, forlorn refugees returning home, or the terminally ill for whom the cure is working. Whatever sadness we feel is brightened by the glory that is being revealed in us — even now! — by our Lord Jesus Christ.
To encourage you this Lent, here are some resources you may find helpful:
Experiencing Lent at Holy Trinity - some questions and a few explanations
Lenten Resources - St. Peter's Anglican has some very helpful videos, a daily devotion, and other resources
The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent - accessible and personal, this is great for those for whom Lent is brand new
40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast.- practical and challenging daily devotional
Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide - thoughtful poems and short literary selections which draw out the themes of the season
I am praying with you and for you, Holy Trinity. May these great and saving forty days of Lent be used of God to soften our hearts and make us more like Jesus.
O Lord of our lives, take from us the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk and give us the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. In the Name of Christ. Amen.
Yours in Christ,