The Nature of Lent

Again, I’m enthralled by Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross. I’m eagerly anticipating the start of Lent–2 more days until Ash Wednesday. After experiencing 4.25 billion storms this cold winter, I am desperate for Spring and the hope of Jesus’ resurrection. Here are some excerpts from Gross’ introduction on “Lent” that help instruct my mind and heart as to what defines this blessed season, and ways in which I can watch and fast and pray.

Themes of Lent:

-Light to Shadows: “…We continue to walk with Jesus [as we did in Epiphany], but our attention shifts from light to shadows: his increasingly hostile opponents, his growing heaviness of spirit, and his ominous talk of betrayal and death. With the disciples, we grow uneasy, almost appalled. Human sin, corrupt powers, even raw evil comes into view.”

-Dust and Ashes: “These symbolize…our creaturely mortality and our moral culpability. Finite beings and sinful persons, we are destined to die. And so we humble ourselves before the eternal God who created us and the holy God who must, if we are to live, redeem us. The dust speaks of our bodily dependence and the ashes signify our spiritual penitence. Ash Wednesday sets the tone for the season: humility, simplicity, sobriety, and even sorrow.”

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“We start Lent by joining Jesus in the place of solitude, we continue by walking with him toward Jerusalem and we end by kneeling beside him in dark Gethsemane. All along the way–the desert, the road, the garden–Jesus is tempted to go a different way, one that avoids anything like the cross. Repeatedly he says no” (132).

A phrase to describe Lent: “A bright sadness.”

“We are like prisoners whose release draws near or refugees on our way back home or patients for whom the cure is working” (128).

“These six weeks…are like walking in a still-darkened valley even as the morning sun lights the tops of the mountains around us. Bright sadness, indeed” (129).

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Gross then goes on in detail to describe three helpful disciplines to practice during Lent: fasting and prayer, fasting and repentance, fasting and meditation. In what ways will you fast during this Lenten season, beloveds? Ponder it in your heart, and feel free to share it with me or someone near to you.

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3 thoughts on “The Nature of Lent

  1. Now I have to get this book! Hope you don’t mind but I posted a quote from this to the HPC FB page! Bright sadness. Such an accurate description of Lent!

    1. The concept of a “bright sadness” speaks to me, too. It always seems to surprise people when I tell them how much I love the Lenten season. But I do. The intentional time and space for reflection always proves so life-altering for me. And I look forward to seeing how God speaks to us all during this season of “bright sadness” this year.

  2. Life is full of lament and joy…and Lent and Easter are such a picture of that in 40 days or so. I just ordered the book thanks to you!!

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