Electronic Prayer Book

Making Way for New Growth

 

If we are not very familiar with the idea of “Lent” it’s easy to become a little daunted by the constant references in all the daily prayers and Scriptures, to our fast, or to our penances and mortification. Our small collection of Lenten devotions and spiritual reading has been selected to help us make balanced decisions about our Lent and not to go on an endless guilt trip that we haven’t done enough.

As is well known the word Lent is an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning springtime. The six week build-up to Easter commenced in early spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The early Christians saw it as an ideal time to combine a number of elements which make up the season of Lent. They saw it as a time of profound happiness as well as holiness.

One of the most basic disciplines accepted by our forebears was to trim the partying a little and create a little more time for prayer and charitable works. They strove to encourage healthy spiritual spring growth.

A second thread through Lent was to take to heart very seriously our Lord’s instruction that unless we take up our cross daily and follow Him, we were heading for self-destruction. This particular aspect of Lent has a vast number of ways of finding expression. Christians talk of death-to-self in order to live for Christ. The word they coined for this is mortification: the voluntary act of allowing God to put an end to things in us He doesn’t like, and freeing up “space” for new life — new growth. Thus the whole concept of Lent is therefore one of restoration — of expanding our ability to grow towards our full spiritual capacity, and to enjoy life to the full. This could involve the giving up of certain things we are attached to. It could equally see us going out of our way to give time to help others or to do things for the community we live in.

When we get the whole idea of Lent in perspective we are more likely to become enthusiastic about taking a mature responsibility to participate. It is important to remember that it is simple. It may not be easy (especially at first) — but it is simple. It is about taking our Lord seriously and letting Him have first place in our lives. Nothing should be allowed to cloud this simple priority.


In Summary

Over the centuries the Church has called on all its members to make at least three simple decisions:

First: to give at least a moment or two extra each day in prayer, spiritual reading or meditation with the Lord;

Secondly: to give up at least some pleasure as a personal sacrifice for our Lord, and in that way share in His self-sacrifice for us;

Thirdly: to make ourselves more available to Him to use us to help others.

Everyone (within reason) is encouraged to do this. No one is expected to take on what could be unwise, unhealthy, or unsustainable. Rather — We should resolve to undertake appropriate spiritual practices, as well as good deeds which we can maintain throughout Lent without collapsing in a heap because we “overdid” it. The paradox is, that mortification is actually about new life and how to get it!

What Happens When my Best Intentions Flop?

It is a very common experience for people to make a common-sense decision about giving up some little practice during Lent — something very moderate and well within reach without undue stress or inconvenience to others. And lo and behold, only a few days into Lent and — oh dear — it all goes wrong. They are so very disappointed that they couldn’t even manage the smallest of sacrifices, without turning back to the old ways. But this is the very purpose of Lent — not to get us through the six weeks so we can tell God — “Look what I achieved for you! I’ve done it”. On the contrary Lent is a mirror to show us how weak we can be even in the smallest, humblest of tasks; and how much we need God’s patience and indulgence. Lent is a time of spiritual warfare — no matter how mild we make it. So we shouldn’t be surprised if we sometimes stumble. Our task is to accept our weakness, turn to God for further help, and start again! This is critical to get back on our feet, so to speak, and start again; no matter how many times we have to do that.

A Final Word

We should not compare ourselves with others but adopt some personal programme we know is right for us and just get on with it, even if we fail and have to start again (and yet again). Our section ‘Devotions During Lent’ abounds in opportunities for daily prayer, reading and reflection.  Even just a modest effort will help bring the Morning and Evening Prayers to life and with them, many blessings.

We wish you a happy and holy Lent.