In this season, which begins on Ash Wednesday (February 18th this year), we are invited by the Church to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting and alms-giving. The purpose of all this is to take time for God. So let’s look at some of these practices that can bring us closer to God.
Lent is traditionally a time of fasting and abstinence. A common and popular form of Lenten abstinence is to give up some particular food you enjoy for the duration of Lent. This is a worthwhile practice. The purpose of fasting is not to go on a diet but to gain a degree of mastery over oneself. It is to liberate oneself from dependence on the things of this world in order to concentrate on the things of the Kingdom of God. It is to give power to the soul.
Besides giving up something for Lent, one can also take something on. I’d like to touch on two or three of these possibilities. These might become so useful to your spiritual development that you would not choose to drop them once Lent was over.
One of these practices is praying Morning and/or Evening Prayer. Reciting the Divine Office, as it is called, is a particularly good way of joining oneself to the rhythm and progression of the season of Lent.
Then there is Lectio Divina, (Latin for Divine or Sacred Reading). It is the slow, prayerful, meditative reading of Sacred Scripture. Here at St. Paul’s we have a weekly group (Thursday at 11 am) who meet to share in this practice. But you can do it on your own too.
Reading spiritual classics is another way to awaken your inner spirit. These can range from spiritual classics like Thomas a Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ” to C. S. Lewis, Thomas Merton or Henri Nouwen and many others.
What I’ve said is far from exhaustive, but I hope that it might prove a spark as you consider what you might do to take time for God and make this a holy Lent.
God of compassion, through your Son Jesus Christ you reconciled your people to yourself. Following his example of prayer and fasting, may we obey you with willing hearts and serve one another in holy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Post communion Prayer for Ash Wednesday)