Every day is Lent

I’ve never been able to empathise with churches which don’t have a strong sense of the liturgical seasons. However, the price we Episcopalians (and all Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Orthodox) pay for having seasons is that, as they come round each year, it gets harder to find anything new to say. So on Wednesday I found myself preaching on the usual things: repentance, intimations of mortality, self-discipline, prayer, reflective reading of Scripture.

Then, as I spoke, it suddenly occurred to me that if we made a list of these activities and left it lying around, someone picking it up, who knew something about Christianity, might well say: ‘Why, these are what we expect from Christians day by day!’

So do the seasons have a value? Yes, because each time they come round we have to face new issues and new challenges. Since last Lent, the world financial structure has collapsed, leading us to reflect on the apparent absence of limits to greed, and on the consequences for the less well-off, who have seen their savings eroded because of reckless behaviour by financial institutions. In the Middle East, there has been a surge in violence and suffering in the last few months, followed by the emergence of a probable right-wing government in Israel. And the Congo and Darfur are still with us. Not to mention the fact that the danger to our civil liberties in the UK is more acute than this time last year.

I must admit to struggling, every Ash Wednesday, with the apparent contradiction between be-smudging our foreheads and the gospel injunction not to make a public show of penitence. But if Christians are to contribute to the world’s  healing, our day-to-day living has to be seen, and seen publicly, to be Lenten – all year round.

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3 responses to “Every day is Lent

  1. I’m not convinced by the idea that we should be Lenten all year round. It seems to me that this puts too much emphasis on just one aspect of Christian spirituality. At the very least, it should be balanced by our being Easter people all year round (after all, Lent itself is punctuated by feast days, Sunday by Sunday) – so, a life of joyful penitence.

  2. I think we basically agree, Lawrence. What I could/should have included is some reference to the fact that Lent is, as you say, a period of joyful penitence, as we prepare for the celebration of the Resurrection. That’s an attitude that could be generalised into our daily lives.

  3. I, too, have a struggle with wearing my ashes bravely on the High Street and washing them off! At St Aug’s in Dumbarton, a church which never even had candles until about 13 years ago, we have mixed reactions to the whole ashy thing on Ash Wednesday! Most get “ashed”, some wash it off after coffee, and some don’t. In a town church where all strands of churchmanship come together, it’s a decent Anglican compromise!

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