So the journey begins.
For our church It starts off in the darkness of a room filled with imagery and symbolism. The smell of incense permeates the
worship space as all the senses are engaged: See Jesus on the cross and images of light and darkness, death and life; Hear the sounds of rocks falling, prayers being murmured, music softly playing. Taste the fruit, savor the bread. Touch the Sacramental elements and the sand, feel the ashes.
Tuesday, March 5th, Ash Wednesday…The journey begins.
Over the next 40 days all movement will be heading toward the cross, to what we call, ironically, Good Friday. And it is good in an obtuse kind of way. The days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday are written into the Christian Calendar and given a name.
Lent by definition means “Season of Spring.” That in itself is loaded with meaning and symbolism. Beyond that the Christian Church has developed the “Season of Spring” into a holy season. Holy being “set apart” or “set aside”. Like Advent, it is a season set apart for particular emphasis on preparation, fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ’s suffering and death.
We do the same thing every year, we live in preparation of a mysterious Friday and celebratory Sunday. But it is not just ours. This season belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ all around the world. It is not American, African or Asian.
It is the Church’s season.
The Church with a capital “C”.
It is ritual, but it doesn’t have to be ritualistic.
It is tradition but need not be simply the result of traditionalism.
We do not stop our lives but instead we live our lives within the retelling of the story. The reliving of the journey.
Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday…and everything in between.
Perhaps we are a little more aware of the Cross and what it means to us this time of year. What it means for the world.
A new way of life. A new road of forgiveness. Death swallowed up. Conquered. Destroyed. New life springing forth from the ground. Bursting forth from a tomb. Hope realized.
Advent is a time of waiting for a promise. It requires patience and vision. It is lived week to week. Lent on the other hand, is a journey into death before it can be a journey into life. It is lived day by day. It too requires patience and a vision.
I suppose, like anything, it all can be wrought with religious overtones while the spirit and heart remain aloof, disconnected. That is a danger. I warn against falling into that trap. And it is a trap. Instead, approach each day with a new attitude, with gratitude and an open spirit that says “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
The Church never tires of telling the story. Never tires of reimagining the journey. Year and year out we state our message to the world: “Christ has died, Christ has risen. Christ will come again.” There are no new twists or truths revealed. The story remains the same. No surprise endings. He lived and was rejected for His message…A conspiracy of fear and hate from the political and religious world came together to betray, reject, deny, torture and crucify the Son of God. The world sinned its most hideous sin into the Messiah and He absorbs, takes on and embraces that sin. And instead of being swallowed up by it He reveals the heart and nature of the Father, loving the unloving. “Father forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.”
Then…”It is finished.” Then…”Into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” Then…He breathed His last breath.
A descent to proclaim the Kingdom has come. On earth as it is in heaven.
Easter Sunday. Lent is over.
Find somewhere to engage the journey once again. Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. 40 days of death. One day of resurrection.
You can’t keep a good man down. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.