Once again, we enter the season of Lent — Lent being a word from Old English, “lengthen”, referring to the lengthening of days as spring approaches.
In short, Lent means spring is coming. How do we prepare for spring to arrive with the offerings of new life, flowers, birds, small animals, trees starting to bud and the profusion of reminders that the dark days of winter never last?
In the tradition of our ancestors, we engage in house cleaning. At some point the weather will lift and we can shake out the rugs, wash curtains and engage in the annual deep cleaning our spiritual houses, and physical abodes, need at least once a year.
It is a penitential season. The idea of meatless Fridays, giving up something or taking on a spiritual discipline are all intended to call us to look into the mirror of our souls.
What do I see? Where have I failed my brothers, sisters, family, friends and God? It is a time to be honest and should I see something I don’t like, it’s time to repent.
Repent is another word that we may use lightly, but it literally means to turn around. Take that 180-degree turn and reverse course.
There’s a great deal more to this call to repent than giving up the token chocolate for 40 days. Do I give up the chocolate because my consumption of that product is part of a system that harms another, the growers and harvesters of coco beans in remote regions? Do I take on a discipline to better connect with myself and brothers and sisters living in poverty and despair?
What is the desired outcome of this season and will it mean a more permanent change in the direction of my life and witness?
Every Lent arrives with its own challenges and opportunities to start over and try again. This one arrives amid a world of hurt and confusion. Maybe every Lent arrives this way and there are simply times when I’m more aware.
There were the Ash Wednesdays that arrived on my 50th and 60th birthdays. There was last year’s Ash Wednesday and the Parkland Massacre.
Whatever this Lent may mean for each of us, let us bring out the spiritual brooms and begin again to grow and follow the road of God’s love for all creation – even us.
And let us sing with the Psalmist, “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’”
We ARE forgiven. But are we changed by that forgiveness?
So we begin, again …
Rev. Elaine Silverstrim is a retired Episcopal Priest.