Personal History of Lent - Doty Jackson

When I began to think about what to write concerning Lent, I did a little digging into the historical aspects. While doing so I was reminded of the origins and customs associated with the Christian observance of Lent. That brought me to thinking about how, over the years, I have participated in Lent.

I revisited the three basic components associated with Lent: prayer, service and fasting. Growing up, during Lent, prayer was accomplished by adding a Wednesday evening service with a church dinner for families. It was a time to gather together, share a meal and worship. My memory of those evenings is still fresh in my mind even though it was 50+ years ago. Those services were a time to spend with my family (that includes church family) and reflecting on what the journey to Easter was all about.

As kids our service component was to fill a Mite Box with our allowance money to be sent to the Diocese for outreach programs. Usually the money was directed to programs that assisted children in other countries. It taught us as youngsters to look outward toward the needs of others.

Fasting is the third responsibility for Lent. Children were not required to fast but it was always interesting to me that my Catholic friends couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. I suppose by giving up something for Lent we were, in a way, fasting. Since I was not a candy eater, I would give up movies or TV time. 

Slowly, I drifted away from the rituals of Lent. I sometimes went to Good Friday services but always was in church Easter Morning. I gave lip service to fasting or giving something up and I suppose I considered the work I was doing service. Over the years, the more I reflected on my life, family, community and God, the more I sought to return to a fuller participation in the journey to the cross and resurrection. And now that I have a grandson, I have come full circle in understanding how important early Christian formation for our children is. And the Collect seems to speak to my return to what I learned so many years ago.

Collect for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Almighty and most merciful God, drive from us all weakness of body, mind, and spirit; that, being restored to wholeness, we may with free hearts become what you intend us to be and accomplish what you want us to do; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Therefore - Mary Sulerud

“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…


--Mary Sulerud