One of the great gifts of our liturgical tradition is the Church year. There is a rhythm to the way the Church moves through the seasons that makes us both purposefully out of step with the rest of the world and powerfully aware that all time is being altered by God’s invasion of our space and time in Jesus Christ. The Church year is a journey that takes the traveler on a wonderful pilgrimage. Beginning in a state of expectation in Advent that leads to the great consummation of Christmastide, moving us from the manifestation of the Epiphany into the introspection of Lent, lifting us to the triumph of Easter into the everyday and everywhere difference it makes during Pentecost, the Christian calendar potently pushes us beyond simply “knowing” the Christian story intellectually. Through each step, with the Church year’s shifts and turns, we live out the story of our faith-day after day, week after week.
Lent is a season of discipline and sacrifice, of repentance and restoration, of hope for salvation that is tied to our honest awareness of our failings before God. An essential part of the Christian walk, Lent forces us to be mindful of the cost of discipleship. Jesus requires something of us, indeed nothing less than this: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
In order that the Christian faith not atrophy into some “happily ever after” fairy tale, we must deal with the darkness that is a real part of this world and us in it. Lent helps us do this first by insisting that we take the whole truth seriously and then by filling out the story so that the hard stuff is never erased by our wishful editing. The end is that we are granted a memory, a memory that reminds us of the truth that there is no way to get to the joy of Easter Sunday without the tremendous sacrifice of Good Friday. Lent compels us towards honesty, though we often do not barter in such a currency.
Lent expects much from us and even more so from God. For Lent’s resolution cannot come from within us or out of our own strivings alone. Resurrection is Lent’s resolution; resurrection is God’s gift. In Easter, much like Mary Magdalene, we too will discover that although indeed there is much darkness, the darkness has been overwhelmed by the light of Emmanuel, “the with us God.”
Yours on the Way,
The Reverend Eric Long, Rector