“Therefore, let us begin the journey!”
--The responsory for the Penitential Procession for the First Sunday in Lent
The days that follow Ash Wednesday before the First Sunday in Lent are often referred to as the “porch of Lent”. Quite literally these three days are the porch on which we stand, bags packed, looking out over the landscape of the next forty days of that journey of penitence that we call Lent. On the horizon is the goal of the journey, the holy city of God, which is Jerusalem.
The biblical figure spoken of most often in ancient writings about the early part of Lent is Abraham. That always catches me a bit by surprise. After all, it was the people of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for forty years. It was Jesus who went to the wilderness for forty days and nights and was tempted by the devil. It is Abraham’s story of leaving his home, family and tribe to journey to an unknown land and unknown possibilities promised by God that has also served as an inspiration for the Lenten pilgrimage.
It is a reminder that this time is not just about our personal and communal failings and our desire to repent of them. It is also about traveling lightly to leave space, time and an opportunity to hear and respond to the promise of God. To do that may demand leaving whatever is our comfort zone to be present to God. Abraham, and Sarah, are the premier examples of what it is to push ourselves off the porch and walk to what we do not yet know, except that God has promised us that God will be with us in the journey, and that nothing is impossible with God.
Let us begin the journey…