By Fr. Ron Baird
Ash Wednesday on March 6 begins the holy journey to the Cross that we call Lent. Lent is a time to put away the cares of the world and to follow our Lord and Savior to Jerusalem, to Calvary, and to the Tomb. It’s a time to prepare our hearts, minds, bodies and souls to accept the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us. If we keep a Holy Lent, then the true meaning and joy of Easter permeates our life in fullness, because we have journeyed to the death that is Calvary; the sacrifice that is the Cross. We are thus empowered to the new life of the Resurrection.
Lenten activities begin the night before Ash Wednesday, which we call Shrove Tuesday (in French, Mardi Gras), traditionally with a Pancake Supper. The word “shrove” is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance. Thus, Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the custom for Christians to be “shriven” before the start of Lent.
It is appropriate that we have a feast the evening before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, as it’s our last opportunity to “stuff” ourselves with goodies before we enter into the serious discipline that is Lent.
As you partake in the festivities of Shrove Tuesday, also plan to partake in the spiritual discipline of fasting on Ash Wednesday, one of two fast days in the Church. Fasting helps us keep in mind the plight of those who don’t have enough to eat, and also focuses our attention on the need to be “hungry” for the Gospel.
Of course, young children and anyone with special medical needs should not attempt to fast. The rest of us can gain much spiritually by submitting ourselves to this discipline.
In addition to the “liquids only” fast from sunrise to sundown, we pray that you will come to the altar of Christ at one of the two services that day, at 12 Noon and 7 p.m., to receive the imposition of ashes, to hear the call to a devout and Holy Lent and to receive God’s mercy in the form of Christ’s Body and Blood.
In order to experience the true joy of Easter, one must walk the Lenten journey. The imposition of ashes begins this journey by reminding us that we are but creatures of dust, created by God, and lost without his saving grace.
Many of us think of ourselves as immortal. It is important that we stop at least once a year to remind ourselves of the reality of death in our lives, and of our need for the salvation that is found in Christ alone.
Many Christians adopt a four-fold discipline of prayer, fasting, study, and almsgiving in Lent.
It is important that we set aside a few minutes each day to be with our God; to look at our lives and to seek his will for us. You cannot follow Christ unless you take time to ask where he is going. The Daily Office offers an excellent pattern for daily prayer. You’ll find the Anglican Church in North America’s Daily Office online at anglicanchurch.net/?/main/texts_for_common_prayer. The Daily Lectionary is also available in “The Net” (or sometimes in a separate leaflet is space dictates), and on our website, standrewspolaris.org, under the “Scripture & Prayer” menu.
Many of you already pray weekly for the Church, including our own parish, using the “Prayers for the Church” taken from the Sunday liturgy’s Prayers of the People. If you don’t already do this, Lent would be an excellent time to start praying regularly for the Church, seeking God’s blessing on his people, and also his guidance as we seek to fulfill his mission in this place.
You can also find resources for your Lenten journey, including a variety of online sources for prayers for the season of Lent, on our website. Click on the “Resources for Lent” slider on the home page.
Fasting is not a popular concept in our time. Dieting, yes; but not fasting. Perhaps that is because we do not understand why we “give something up” for Lent. Giving up something is another way of saying fasting. We fast from something. We generally give up something that we know we will miss so that the absence of it, the desire for it, will keep in our minds the sacrifice that Christ made for us: His very life. What we give up is not nearly so important as that we do give up something that we will miss. Sundays are feast days in Lent; a time when we can splurge a little and have what we gave up. This is because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, when our Lord’s life was restored to him.
Lent is also a time when we make time to learn more about the faith. This Lent, St. Andrew’s is once again offering a five-week parish-wide Lenten Study and Soup Supper Program on Tuesdays from 6:15 to 8 p.m., March 12 through April 9. Our hope is that families will come together to make this Lent a time of discipleship, fellowship and worship.
Almsgiving is historically the giving of gifts or money to the poor. There are several opportunities available to the parish this Lenten season to aid us in this discipline. You might consider contributing to the Kairos #50 weekend, on which our own Pat Linder is serving. See details on the front page.
You may also wish to give to one of weekly outreach offerings: the Parish Discretionary Fund, which helps those in need in our midst, first Sundays; community outreach ministries, second Sundays; the Common Ground Free Store in Delaware, third Sundays; international outreach ministries, fourth Sundays, and the St. Andrew’s Food Ministry, fifth Sundays.
We also have opportunities coming up to serve those in need with our feet and hands. St. Andrew’s will be serving at the Common Ground Free Store on Saturday, March 16, and Rachel Cherubini, who coordinates our Food Ministry, is seeking folks to help prepare and deliver meals. Rachel also coordinates our Prayer Shawl Ministry, and will be hosting a workshop for anyone interested in learning more about the ministry. Read more about these opportunities in today’s edition of “The Net.”
Come join us on this journey that is Lent. Walk with our Lord the steps to Calvary. And join with him in his glorious Resurrection!