Friday, February 27, 2009

Keeping a Holy Lent

Lent is all about preparing to receive the power of Jesus’ forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection. While penitence, fasting, and self-denial are major themes of this season, joy, love, and renewal also characterize Lent.

In the invitation to keep a holy Lent (BCP, p. 265), the Prayer Book invites us to observe the following practices to help prepare us in body, mind, and spirit for the joyful celebration of Easter:

Self-examination and repentance
We look at our lives – at things done and left undone – in light of the 10 Commandments and the Baptismal Covenant. Where we have fallen short of the mark, we ask for God’s forgiveness. We ask for God’s help to walk in newness of life. We may also make a confession to a priest using the rite for "The Reconciliation of a Penitent" (BCP, pp. 447-452). And we do all of this in the assurance that we have been redeemed by the dying and rising of Jesus Christ.

“Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words” (BCP, p. 856). The 40 days of Lent provide a unique opportunity for us to more deliberately respond to God, both in corporate worship and in making time each day (even just 5 minutes) for personal prayer.

Fasting is about abstaining from certain foods or behaviors to allow the body to regain its God-given orientation to health and wholeness. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the two fast days of the Church calendar year. On those days, we are invited to abstain wholly or partially from all or certain foods.

Self-denial is another form of fasting that can be practiced throughout Lent. The operative question here is: “What foods or behaviors do I overindulge, that stand in the way of my relationship with God, and that I need to cut back on or cut out completely?”

Reading and meditating on God’s holy Word
God speaks to us in unique ways through the Bible. Follow the Daily Office lectionary, or pick one of the Gospels to read daily, and let the Holy Spirit shape your life more and more in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

These practices of preparation are time-tested ways for cultivating a deeper relationship with God. Experiment with these practices and find what works for you.

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