From the Archives of Clergy Clatter

March 1994

We are in the middle of Lent. Like many practices in the Church, the observance of Lent has seen its changes over the years. Originally intended as a period of preparation of candidates for Baptism, Lent evolved into a highly structured observance for the whole membership of the Church. The Anglican Church has seen its “ups and downs” with Lent. In the 18th century, the observance of Lent was actually prohibited in the Episcopal Church as being “too Catholic.” Its observance resurfaced in the early 19th century.

Today’s observance of Lent varies greatly from that which I practiced as a child and as a teenager – not all that many years ago. In the 50s (my years), Lent was a time to try to practice suffering. It was very carefully calculated so that it didn’t hurt too much. We always gave up something for Lent, usually something which we could do without fairly easily, but about which we could make quite a fuss. There were extra church suppers and early morning mid-week services, which we groaned our way through, as if we really were miserable with the whole thing. And there were the Mite Boxes which we filled with money (pennies – because they didn’t cost much and were too heavy to haul to Church). That was the Lent which I remember.

That Lent of the 50s just would not cut it today. We are a little more honest these days and a sense of “contrived suffering” is not something for which any of us feel a craving. For many of us, Lent has become a period in which to “take on” something rather than to “give up” something – take on something which helps us get in touch with who we are, and how we relate to each other, and to our God. Perhaps a few quiet minutes in the yard each morning, or the reading of a book, or a little special attention to someone close to us. Lent can be a very meaningful time for us, if we use it as a vehicle to slow down a little, take a look at what we are doing with our lives, and get a little more in touch with our spirituality.

Richard+

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