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Lent: the slow approach to Easter

By Libi Clifford

Joan Chittister uses the image of a waterwheel when she describes the liturgical calendar.

The movement is slow, steady and continuous. Lent is the slow approach to Easter. We’ve come down from the joy of Christmas and Epiphany and are now into the steady upward movement toward Easter day. The word Lent is derived from an old English word for spring, recognizing that Lent is the time of year when our natural world changes from the somber browns and greys of winter to the bright greens of the new life in spring. Lent is a time of personal preparation. It is the somber time of making our lives right with God again as we prepare for the celebration of Easter. Since the wheel moves slowly, we have lots of time to complete the preparation.

Traditionally, there are three aspects to the Lenten preparation for Easter, prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Together, they represent our personal relationship with God, our relationship with His world, and our relationship with others. For most of us, prayer is a daily conversation with God. Lenten prayer might be a reflective process with more soul searching. This will inevitably involve less conversation and more listening on our part. What is God asking us to do, not what are we asking God to do is the point of these moments. Lent might also be the time to begin meditation in one of its many forms or to examine our baptismal covenant more thoroughly to see if we are fulfilling our part of the contract and where we have fallen short.

Fasting can be thought of as prayer in action, a discipline that teaches us to focus on the abundance of God’s world. When people think of fasting, it typically revolves around food and a lost meal or indulgence. Perhaps we should expand that thought. Our continual overuse and misuse of the resources that God asked us to care for, is an insult to Him. Lent is a good time to acknowledge the errors in our use of these resources and see where we can reduce our footprint in God’s world. Climate change and the resultant economic migration with all its problems might be improved somewhat if we fasted a bit more.

Almsgiving is another form of prayer in action.  Children find that one of the most difficult lessons to learn is sharing. Apparently, it doesn’t get any easier for adults. We still want to acquire and keep things. Lent is the time to let go and share. God provided resources for everyone. Those that have more than they really need, have to relearn how to share. It is more than throwing money at a problem, it is getting involved and doing with less so others may also share in the bounty.

Renewal and reorientation in our relationship with God, His world and our neighbours through prayer and prayer in action is the goal of Lent. The waterwheel slowly and steadily will move toward Easter.

Will you be prepared for Easter?

Libi is a member of the diocesan Anglican Fellowship of Prayer executive and treasurer of the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer (Canada).