Pulpit Reflections by Rev. David Hussey St. Paul's Episcopal Church Ash Wednesday, which falls on Feb. 25 this year, is the beginning of the season of Lent, which is also an Anglo-Saxon word for "spring." Since the fourth century, Lent has been known as a penitential season of 40 days which corresponds to the final period of preparation for candidates for Easter baptism in the early church. The meaning of the season is well expressed in the invitation to the celebration of a holy Lent found in The Book of Common Prayer.
"The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of Our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those, who because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith." (BCP 264-265)
We are called to a season of repentance and renewal and urged to revisit the practices of self-examination, prayer, fasting and self-denial. At the same time we are reminded that as Christians we are to prepare with joy for the coming of Easter. We must surely then add to our Lenten discipline works of mercy and a truly joyful sense of renewal in our celebrations of God's Word and Sacraments.
If we fail to add the elements of joy and renewal to our Lenten observance it becomes little more then a 40 day reprise of Ash Wednesday and will do little for building up our faith or that of Christ's Church in a world which needs it more then ever.