Our Ash Wednesday invitation to the observance of a holy Lent calls us forth in new and creative ways to go more inward—to listen to the still small voice of God within us (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 264). Amid our often full and rather rushed lives, this annual forty-day season asks you and me to be still—just enough—to consider another way of being in the world. While the Lenten invitation does not suggest that we make immediate changes, it unapologetically confronts us to reflect, hope, and respond in ways that point toward transformation. Our movement most likely will be gradual and if it is immediate, we can celebrate that surprise.
Instead of creating a list of things that we should “give up” during the season of Lent, I suggest that we “take on” things during this weighty season; take on small or large things that undoubtedly will improve our quality of life, welfare, and most important, our relationship with God and neighbor.
In the name of God’s Church, we are invited to observe a holy Lent by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. To make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, I offer the following Lenten prayer from the late Reverend Henri Nouwen in his book A Cry for Mercy. My intent is to pray it daily in the name of my transformation.
How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.
– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector