Preparing for Lent? Celebrate!

By Associate Jim Gill, Greendale, Wisconsin

An SSND places ashes on a student's head at the Ash Wednesday service at St. Martin's in Milwaukee. As a religious educator, I keep files of ideas, especially for observing the seasons of the liturgical year. In my Lent file is a small pamphlet I’ve had on hand for close to 40 years. Written in 1979 by Matthew Fox, a popular author on spirituality, it’s entitled “Lent: A Time to Celebrate.” In it, he reminds us that Lent is really not about Lent, but Easter. Another source (whose identity I have lost) backs this up in saying “Lent does not contain what Lent is about.” Fox goes on to explore the idea of Lent as a time to celebrate, rather than a time to see how much we can suffer so we can praise ourselves afterwards. This, he states, borders on Pelagianism, the heresy that teaches that we save ourselves through our works, penances and mortifications. In the past, this kind of thinking has led to all sorts of strange beliefs and practices.

As you think of how you will observe Lent this year through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, think of how you can make your actions have a positive focus. And don’t be afraid to have a little fun! “Discipline” yourself to learn a new craft or hobby. Learn to bake bread, do woodworking, knit, paint, draw, write a journal – the list of possibilities is endless. And, of course, remember a little self-denial in some areas can be positive too! If you do this, you will arrive at Easter as a better, more whole/holy person for God and the world around you. Readied in this way, you’ll have cause to celebrate the ultimate positive – the resurrection!

 
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