Psalm 139: 23-24, KJV
Today is Ash Wednesday – the official beginning of the Lenten Season. When I was a little girl, I remember “fasting” from candy and other delectables for forty days. Every Friday we ate fish. On Sundays, no secular music and excessive talking until after 12:00 noon! Every Good Friday we went to mass at 3:00 p.m., the time believed to be when Christ uttered the words, “It is finished” (I was raised Catholic). “Easter Saturday” was to be a somber, reverential day. Oh but on Sunday, we tore into our carefully crafted Easter baskets filled with colorful jelly beans, dyed boiled eggs, chocolate bunnies and crosses and yellow marshmallow chicks!
My dad ensured that we had “hot cross buns” and other sweet rolls or coffee cakes for breakfast. The fast was finally over – hallelujah! For sure, the adults understood the deeper meaning of this Lenten season. For us kids, it was mostly about getting through forty days without delicious sweets!
As I reflect upon those days, I realize that we lacked a depth level explanation and understanding of what true repentance looks like. I believe that many still lack understanding today. Below is a beautiful explanation of the meaning and purpose of Lent, taken from an article entitled, “The Liturgical Structure of Lent.” Consider…
The Liturgical Structure of Lent
To understand the various liturgical particularities of the Lenten period, we must remember that they express and convey to us the spiritual meaning of Lent and are related to the central idea of Lent, to its function in the liturgical life of the Church. It is the idea of repentance. In the teaching of the Orthodox Church however, repentance means much more than a mere enumeration of sins and transgressions to the priest. Confession and absolution are but the result, the fruit, the "climax" of true repentance. And, before this result can be reached, become truly valid and meaningful, one must make a spiritual effort, go through a long period of preparation and purification. Repentance, in the Orthodox acceptance of this word, means a deep, radical reevaluation of our whole life, of all our ideas, judgments, worries, mutual relations, etc. It applies not only to some "bad actions," but to the whole of life, and is a Christian judgment passed on it, on its basic presuppositions. At every moment of our life, but especially during Lent, the Church invites us to concentrate our attention on the ultimate values and goals, to measure ourselves by the criteria of Christian teaching, to contemplate our existence in its relation to God. This is repentance and it consists therefore, before everything else, in the acquisition of the Spirit of repentance, i.e., of a special state of mind, a special disposition of our conscience and spiritual vision.The Russian Orthodox Journal, March, 1959, pp. 6-8
During this Lenten Season, may we do more than refrain from special types of food. May we dare to spend time in deep reflection, contemplation, and spiritual renewal. May we allow the Holy Spirit to give us a “spiritual check-up.” May we ask the Lord to “search our hearts, try our thoughts, see if there be any wicked way in us and lead us in the way everlasting.”
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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,