Comfort My People – Lent’s staying power

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre

There is no other season of the Church’s liturgical year that has the “staying power” of the season of Lent. In contrast to Lent, many of us do not remain true in our spiritual thoughts and actions during the entire duration of the other significant seasons of the Church’s liturgical year, like Christmas or Easter. By this, I mean that for the most part, the joy of the Christmas season or the Easter season fades or ends immediately after Christmas Day or after Easter Sunday.

In contrast to these two seasons, the disciplines of the season of Lent captivate us and hold us throughout the entire season of Lent, which in its duration of 40 days is at least almost equal to the length of the season of Easter and far longer than the season of Christmas. 

You may not find much Christmas spirit (or many Christmas decorations) still present on Dec. 30, but weeks after Ash Wednesday you will still find Catholics denying themselves sweets or praying an extra rosary each week. 

You may not find much joy and celebration in the Easter Alleluias during the fifth week of Easter, but even during the sixth week of Lent you will find Catholics dining on fish and fasting on Fridays of Lent, or not hosting parties or celebrations in Lent or even continuing to sacrificially give to their Rice Bowl or other forms of Lenten self-denial. 

Even if Catholics, for one reason or another, cease these traditional practices during the season of Lent, there is still at least always present in many ways during Lent a conscious awareness that one is not living up to the real call of the season of Lent. 

In these and many other ways, it is obvious to me that the season of Lent has a stronger “staying power” than the other liturgical seasons.

Being faithful to Lent is a great thing, but we can nonetheless ask why does the Lenten season seem to remain with us throughout its duration and have such “staying power?”  One reason might be that what Lent prepares us to celebrate — the Paschal Triduum (or the three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday) — comes at the end of the season, whereas with Christmas and Easter, the real big celebration of these liturgical seasons, occur at the very beginning, and then fade after the initial celebration. 

In my opinion, perhaps another aspect of the “staying power” of Lent is our desire “to go home again and to live rightly in the presence of the Lord.” I know that this desire for the right relationship with God remains in our minds and hearts all the time, but it is given a special focus during the season of Lent. 

As we enter again into the “staying power” of the season of Lent, the ashes of Ash Wednesday will fall fresh upon our foreheads. In sacred Scripture, covering one’s self with ashes or sitting in ashes were powerful signs of one’s desire for God’s forgiveness. These ashes that mark us represent the fact that we have sinned and turned away from the Lord, and they are an indication of our desire for God’s love and forgiveness; of our desire to go home again.  

Using the symbol of ashes, we remember that we are dust and that we are utterly and completely dependent upon God. We are worthless without God, and after our wanderings into sinfulness, we desire to return to the Lord. 

The ashes of our sinfulness will be “washed away” again in the Sacrament of Reconciliation because we have passed through the Water of Life in the Sacrament of Baptism. Our fidelity to the season of Lent and our acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are an indication of this desire to be washed clean in remembering and celebrating the new life that was and is offered to us in the Sacrament of Baptism. 

Lent is a clarion call to prepare to joyfully embrace in a special way the dignity of our Baptism during the Easter Vigil as well as the entire Easter season and to be welcomed home again, which is where being faithful to Lent will lead us.

The Record
Written By
The Record
More from The Record
Serie de Webinars Nuestro Compromiso Personal y Comunitario tendrán lugar en 2021
Esta es una serie de webinars en español sobre la Enseñanza Social...
Read More
0 replies on “Comfort My People – Lent’s staying power”