In 325 CE, the Council of Nicea first referred to Lent as the “forty days” that come immediately before Easter. Since Sundays were always recognized as “little Easters”, the 40 days of the season did NOT include Sundays. And, since Sundays were not a part of Lent, midweek services were established so that the congregation could observe Lent together.
In 1099 CE, Pope Urban II decreed that the first day of Lent would be called Ash Wednesday, a term that would help the faithful to remember that ‘we are dust and to dust we shall return’ and to live into the sacredness of this season. In the early days of the church, Lent was the final intensive period of preparation for catechumens who were preparing for their Baptism and welcome into the church during the Easter Vigil.
All statistics aside, in the church today we recognize the season of Lent as a time of penance, self-examination, and repentance, leading, ultimately, to a deeper connection with God.
In the somber colors and rough textures of these 40 days, we are called to set aside time in which we can examine our abilities and, perhaps even more difficult, our limitations … and to offer ourselves ~ body and soul ~ just as we are ~ to God’s will.
During these 40 days, we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, in the dry areas of life ~ a time spent in prayer and solitude and preparation for the life-affirming, life-renewing journey that He was to begin for the sake of all humanity.
Through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, I invite you to journey deeper into this season of silence and solitude, to set aside all desires for self, and to open ourselves to God’s presence through word and music and sacrament ~ as together we prepare ourselves to be raised up with Jesus on Easter morning.
In Christ’s love,