Ten days from now it will be Ash Wednesday. In my youth, prior to the Conciliar reform of the liturgical calendar in 1969, there was a pre-Lenten period marked by three Sundays named Septugesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. Roughly, these Sundays were approximately 70, 60 and 50 days before Easter. The First Sunday of Lent (Qurdragesima) is approximately 40 days before Easter.
While not calling for a return to this older system, I see a value in it. Consider how we get ready to celebrate Christmas. There is of course the liturgical season of four Sundays in Advent but long before the first one, we begin to consider the approach of Christmas and to ready ourselves for it in any number of ways. Ash Wednesday, on the other hand, can seem to drop out of nowhere. Our first notion of the beginning of Lent comes for many only three days before, on the Sunday before the day we receive ashes. And for non-Church goers, first notice of Ash Wednesday might be the ashes on a coworker's forehead!
So with only 10 days before Ash Wednesday, it's certainly not too early to begin to give Lent some thought. Here are some starter questions for your prayer and reflection...
1) Lent is a kind of spiritual spring training for Christians. What has grown weak, what's out of shape in my spiritual life? in my prayer life? in my relationship with the Lord? How do I need to exercise my spiritual life to condition and make it stronger?
2) Lent is a time for fasting and going without. What fills me up? With what food and drink, what leisure and entertainment, what work and activity do I stuff my body, my heart and imagination, my days and nights, my self? If I experienced in my body the hunger of fasting and giving things up for Lent, might I discover a hunger for more satisfying, substantive food for my soul?
3) Lent is a time for giving to the poor (almsgiving). The gospel calls each of us to serve the poor. Lent is a good time to take inventory of all that I have and to see, in fact, that I have more than I need while others go without even the most basic of necessities. Lent is a good time to simplify my life and to be more generous in my outreach to those in need.
Lent is a time to live for forty days
the way a Christian should live all year round!
Please take some time to give this some thought. I'll be posting similar reminders between now and Ash Wednesday - just 10 days away!
Ash Wednesday Prep
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