For many within the ACU community, liturgical practices, namely the season of Lent and Holy Week, are unfamiliar. However, the beauty of their tradition and symbolism still holds great value.
Lent is a 40 day period meant to resemble Jesus’s 40 days of fasting in the desert. In doing this, Jesus gave a model of penance and humility that is now observed by members of the church.
By following this example, Christians aim to prepare their bodies and minds for Jesus’ death and resurrection in the form of fasting. That fasting goes beyond just abstaining from eating, in fact it can look different for every individual.
My experience and direction from my family and church body has shown me that the idea of fasting should only be confined to an object or practice that can take us away from that remembrance and anticipation of the Resurrection.
Believe it or not, for the majority of my life, I have observed Lent in ways much less extreme than wandering in the desert until Easter morning. When I was young, my fasting took the form of giving up candy and sweets. Later it was deleting social media as I got older. These days it is usually a combination of the two.
With Lent having started this week on Ash Wednesday, we are offered a time to recenter our focus on Christ as we approach spring and its commotion. At first, the idea of finding time to go to church in the middle of the week seems outrageous. However, my experience has yielded the opposite; for years, I have relied on this service’s ability to take me out of the unending cycle of demands. Ash Wednesday offers a wider perspective from the trap of the narrowed, transitory lifestyle that we concern ourselves with too often.
This idea is only expanded in the 40 days of Lent. The power and intention of Lent becomes clear during this time when we live with the lack of something we relied on. That absence allows us to occupy our time with a relationship that is much more necessary.
My experience in the Liturgical church has shown that, as with many things in the church, often their unusual names or outward appearances can intimidate and polarize a younger generation from feeling comfortable enough to engage in them.
However, I can ensure that beyond its unusual name, Lent is a beautiful way to prepare for such an anticipated holiday and further, is completely normal, or at least deserves to be considered as such.
These 40 days before the great day of celebration not only add to the joy of Easter but is genuinely a time that I look forward to as a time to improve myself and my relationship with God and others. It is my hope that more and more will look to do the same in this season of Lent.