Lent and our transformation
The Season of Lent is one of a few key transformational events found in the Christian Church Calendar Year. Mirroring the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness in prayer and fasting, it is practiced over the 6 weeks before Easter which culminated in the execution of Jesus at the hands of the Roman Empire by permission of the Jewish Leaders. It is a story of Death. And then it’s a story of Life, as he rose from the grave, showing us that we need not be afraid of either.
Lent invites its participants onto a road of self-examination, reflection and discovery. It’s about giving something up (fasting) to create space for the emergence of something new. In this way it is embodied, something that we are encouraged to feel. When I have decided to fast from social media and have a strong urge to reach for my iphone to see what’s happening in the world around me, I am encountered by a sense of fear and anxiety. What am I missing out on?
I can take this moment of withdrawal, and rather than satisfy my addiction I can turn it into a prayer. For a while it’s painful, but after a little while it opens up a new space inside of me that can be filled with something new, perhaps something more beneficial to my soul. I am then able to see and engage with the world around me in a kinder, less judgemental and more generous way. In this way Lent is also about giving.
One entry point into this season is via the Rite of Ashes. It’s a traditional ritual whereby you take on the stance of a penitent, submitting to the words of the Priest, ‘From dust you came and to dust you will return, turn away from your sin and be faithful to God.’ These are solemn words that are followed by the pressing of an ash cross into the forehead, to be worn throughout the rest of that day, a reminder and invitation into the season of repentance and transformation.
There is another entry point into Lent that also must be considered, that of the Rite of Election, which says we are ‘already chosen’, and there’s nothing more we need to do but walk in that understanding. This parallels the ‘Transfiguration of Jesus’ and some say his ‘turning point’. In this story (Matthew 17 v 1-2) Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah, his face shining like the sun and his clothes as white as the light. And then he turned his attention to Jerusalem.
This year, I am going to allow the season of Lent to include both of these ways of being, a daily practice of examination, honesty aided by fasting and prayer, and an acceptance of myself as an image bearer whose life is ‘hidden in Christ.’
Maybe this is the path of transformation, and transfiguration.
Can I encourage you to practice Lent this year? And if you do, ask yourself a question, what is getting in the way of me and God?
Or in the words of the U2 song, get out of your own way……..
Linda Burson Swift
Colossians 3 v 3