As a child the joyful anticipation of Christmas through the season of Advent was a normal part of every year. But the period leading to Easter was not greeted with the same excited eagerness. As I recall Lent did not require anything of me, but my Catholic friends were forced to “give up something”. They refrained from eating chocolate or dessert while I gleefully savored each morsel.
Not until I took a 20-year hiatus from religion and then returned to Christianity did I beginto take Lent seriously. It was my past minister, the late Rev. Peter J. Gomes, who encouraged his congregation to prepare for Christ’s resurrection through Lenten practice. His message was not to abstain from something but instead to spend 15 minutes per week in Silence, in Study of a religious text, and in Service to a charity or in an act of kindness.Clearly his well-packaged framing was to urge me give up my self-important busy-ness for forty-five minutes per week of meaningful reflection, thought, and action. Some people may say so short a time commitment isn’t enough. Gomes counseled that doing something for Lent was better than doing nothing.
In recent years I have been partially successful in my Lenten practice, spending longer in study than the prescription. I have fallen short in the areas of silence and service. Slowing my mind in contemplative thought is something I strive for daily and usually fail(regardless of Lent), and finding a Service that only requires a total of 90 minutes of commitment hardly seems worth the effort. But again Gomes proposed that the sheer intent would result in a meaningful Lent. I must admit that when I am more successful at the 3 S’s I have experienced a slowing of time, a closeness to God, a longing for Easter, and a deepening of my faith.
The commitment to prepare yourself for Christ’s death and resurrection is consequential. I hope that you will find a practice that enlivens the 40-day lead-up to Easter, whether it be through Lenten activities at Emmanuel or your own plan… of course you can always give up chocolate.