Bi Gina Gaudet
Do you observe Lent? Did you or your family do so? Were you expected to give up something you liked (sweets, most commonly, or maybe picking on your little sister)? Do you remember ashes on your forehead? Do you still find meaning in these practices?
In our increasingly secular society, many church traditions have diminished in practice or meaning. Christmas has become a retail jackpot; Easter is all about the chocolate. But sometimes the challenge of living a sacred life in a secular world is all about reexamining these very practices in order to discover deeper meanings.
If you will indulge me, here is a very brief Lenten history lesson. Now understood as a 40-day period of fasting and self-denial preceding Easter, more recent research indicates that the history of this “season” is still unclear, though its roots are likely more pagan, or at least agrarian, than Biblical.
The Lent-Easter season is based on the Jewish Lunar calendar (Jesus, a Jew, was arrested after the observance of the Passover, observed now as Maundy Thursday), which is why the date is different every year. The 40-day duration was meant to reflect Jesus’ 40 days fasting in the wilderness after his baptism. Lent was most likely established after the Council of Nicea early in the 4th century, and was often used as a period of personal fasting, indoctrination and preparation for baptism on Easter Sunday (though Easter was not the only day on which people were baptized). Lent is now observed in various ways, depending on the theology of your church of choice, or your personal path.
As a former pastor and as a gardener, I tend to see Lent as a time of rich, inner (“underground” if you will) growth; the earth warms up, the seeds of plants and flowers respond to the warming environment by following their own natural inner guidance and spring gently comes forth from the womb of Mother Earth. Contrary to the Roman Catholic practice of self-denial, Gaia denies us nothing in this early season of seedlings and blossoms. So for me, Lent is about self-reflection. Looking inward, it is a quiet time where the blossoming of new life (new perceptions, ideas, understanding or direction) finds rich soil in the practice of reflection, self-inquiry and meditation. And, yes, sometimes self-denial is part of the path.
So here is your invitation: On Tuesday, March 5, we will close out the season of “Mardi Gras” with a pancake supper at 6 pm, followed by a service of ashes at 7:15, led by Father Chuck Cannon. Perhaps this can be an observance of the beginning of your inner spring, the warming of the soil of your soul.