Lent is one of the most transformative seasons of the Christian calendar. It is a season that I need to observe, and with my observance over the years, it has now become part of the natural rhythm of my life. This past Wednesday, I entered a sanctuary made sacred at St. Michael’s and All Angels Episcopal Church in my home city of Dallas, Texas.
It pleased me to find that parking was a bit of a challenge. Normally we find in the Christian church that the high holy days of Christmas and Easter are our primary logistical challenges regarding moving people in and out of our sacred spaces. While the crowd wasn’t as large as those for the high holy days, it was a very large crowd for Ash Wednesday. I was humbled by the sheer number of people who, like me, were arriving to mark a place in time.
Traditionally, Lent is a 40 day observance beginning with Ash Wednesday and concluding with Holy Thursday during Holy Week. It is a time when Christians are called to remember our baptism and to reflect upon the ways in which we have not loved ourselves, others or God – it is time of reflection and penance. Lent was also the time, in the early Church, when those who wished to enter the faith, were prepared. Once 40 days of preparation was complete, Baptism would occur on Easter Sunday.
For me, however, there is more to Lent than reflection, penance and preparation. There can be no reflection, penance or preparation without transfiguration. Keeping a Holy Lent has the incredible power to transform and transfigure us. I believe that Lent is a sacred liminal space. It is a threshold, a sacred time we enter for a short while in order to move out into the blessing of change and transformation. Like my practice of centering prayer, observing a Holy Lent is another way of entering into the Paschal Mystery. These forty days provide me with an opportunity for deep and insightful reflection upon my humanity and where I am along the path of enlightenment. It is an opportunity to die to those aspects of Self that do not serve us well in the world. In that sense, Lent offers us a liminal space for reflection and change.
Keeping a Holy Lent offers me the choice of a new path. My inner reflection and wisdom call me a true examination of my Self, my soul. The fruits of that time of examination and reflection is the opportunity to choose a different path, to welcome a new way of being and doing in all manner of ways in one’s life. Lenten observance, like the God who I know know as the Holy Mystery, invites me to transformation. This is how I keep a Holy Lent.
What path will open up before me? How will I be changed? How will my reflection upon the Holy Mystery’s incarnation in Christ call me to live in a more truthful way? How will my reflection upon the Holy Mystery’s incarnation into all of life change me?
May your Lenten observance be a holy one, and may you find your true path.