Looking back on Lent

This evening is our last Lenten Wednesday service. On Sunday, as you know Palm Sunday begins Holy Week. Next Wednesday at 7:00 pm, if you come you will participate in the ancient service of Tenebrae, a service of readings and Psalms that culminates in darkness. Next Thursday is Maundy Thursday, when we commemorate the Last Supper. Holy Week is the holiest week of the year, and Lent serves as a period of personal and communal preparation for the events that Holy Week remembers.

I don’t know about you, but I am already putting Lent behind me and beginning to focus on Holy Week—for a single important reason, that the staff and clergy of St. James have a great deal to do between now and next week to prepare for all of the services. But as I think about the logistics of Tenebrae, or Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday, as I help to make sure that there will be readers, and servants in worship for all of the services, as I think about the sermons that I will be preaching, I wonder about something else.

Am I spiritually prepared for what is coming? As we look back on the weeks since Ash Wednesday, when we came forward and had ashes put on our foreheads as the priest said, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return;” as we remember the priest’s admonition to a holy Lent, can we look back and say that we have had a holy Lent?

Some of us no doubt have had little trouble following our Lenten disciplines, but if you’re anything like me, these weeks have been filled with responsibilities large and small, all sorts of activities that have occasionally taken my mind and my soul far away from a focus on God.

Even the Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, with its bidding “that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found;” seems to be somewhat retrospective, looking back at the past with less than complete certainty and asking God to give us the focus we need.

Easter will bring a dramatic change. At the Vigil next Saturday evening, we will hear and sing Alleluias for the first time since February. Our celebration of the resurrection will be full of joy and many of us will break their Lenten fast symbolically—I’m still trying to decide what kind of beer to have in the fridge for when I get home next Saturday evening. Joy will dominate throughout the great 50 days of Easter, but I wonder whether we will take the opportunity to look back at what we did and who we became during Lent.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with an Invitation to a Holy Lent; it might be appropriate to end it, not with a bang or clang of the bells, but with a look back–an assessment, evaluation, or memorial of a Holy Lent.

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