Tales from the Northern Forests
LentA Pastoral Letter
"Whenever you fast do not look dismal, like the hypocrites."
"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?"
The Christian season of Lent has traditionally been seen as a time of self-denial, penitence and general gloom. These exerts from the scripture readings for Ash Wednesday suggest that we should revisit these traditions.
The English word 'Lent' comes from the Old English Len(c)ten which simply means spring. Now spring brings to mind images of new growth; of longer days; of warmth and light after the cold and dark
If we look at Lent with these ideas of what spring means to us then perhaps we can rediscover the scriptural truths in the above quoted passages. Firstly let us look at how Lent can help us to grow into the people that God always intended us to be. In the garden at this time of year we clear away the decaying material and prune back dead wood to make way for new growth. We can do the same in our own lives. Humans seem to have a tendency to hold on to past hurts and failures; re-visit old grudges and slights; pick at the scabs of old wounds. All these things inhibit our growth and happiness.
Let this Lent be a time to let go of everything that is negative in our lives; accept the forgiveness which God is always ready to grant and forgive others in turn. Rediscover the generosity which is within us all and be confident in offering what we have to those who have not.
Look forward with hope even in times of darkness and trust in the ever present and loving God. Give up for Lent only those things that are bad for your physical, emotional and spiritual health.
"Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly."
According to Ann-Marie, Lent as we know it today is nothing more than an invention, made in the middle ages, by monks who were crazy about austerity and asceticism.
As Anne-Marie mentioned the word Lent is an abbreviation of the Old English Lenten, originally spelt lencten, meaning spring. Of Germanic origin, it is composed of 'lengthen' and 'daily'. Thus, it literally means the lengthening of the days, which is exactly what happens in Spring and during Lent.