Lent is the 40-day season leading up to Easter; a time of strict spiritual examination and renewal. It’s most famous for people “giving things up for Lent” — chocolate, caffeine, swearing, and other sinful delights — and sometimes fasting, at least from meat, on Fridays (in honor of Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified).
Most churches clear out the flowers and frilly decorations during Lent, and suspend the use of “Alleluia” and other happy words of praise. We drape things in purple, blood red and black — all outward signs of the inner scouring and penitence of the soul.
Believe it or not, we like all of that! Lent is one of the most popular seasons of the church year — weirdly, much more popular than the Easter season of joy and celebration which continues for 50 days after Easter Sunday.
Maybe our fondness for Lent is a reaction to the “Pleasantville”-like pressure to pretend that we’re all nice and good and squeaky-clean all the time. Or maybe it’s the breaking through of our deep need for God: impatient with token devotions, our souls cry out to meet God in a windswept, honest field, there to be known and loved, just as we are, warts and all. Whatever the reason, we spend the season of Lent trying to figure out the latest thing that’s keeping us from God, and what we can do to get past it, and be closer to God. For many of us, the obstacle is our own spiritual apathy. So instead of giving up something for Lent, we take something on — some new discipline of prayer or reading the Bible; something to jumpstart our lackluster faith, and refocus our hearts and minds on God.
And you: What’s the latest thing that keeps you from God? For what is your soul crying out? Lent’s the time to listen to that.
REV. AMY PRINGLE is rector of St. Geroge’s Episcopal Church in La Cañada. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .