Yearly Spiritual Formation
The Church Calendar
In recent years, the Church calendar has increasingly featured in my own spiritual formation. It anchors and supports my scripture reading, prayer, and experience of God both personally and in our community.
The calendar is a way for the Church to annually "accompany" Jesus in the unfolding of the Gospel together - from Incarnation all the way to Pentecost and everything in between - not just to help us remember vital, past events but to facilitate current experience of God that invigorates us into the future with the beauty of the Christian story over and over again.
Preparation for Easter
Last year during Holy Week, I tried something I had never done before. After our Good Friday service, I decided to keep the same clothes on and go without showering till Easter Sunday. I slept in and wore a plain, black shirt the whole weekend. As you can imagine, my whole body seemed to lurch towards Easter; I could hardly wait to rid myself of the black shirt, shower, and put on something new (a white shirt I wore when my children were born and have worn every Easter over the last few years).
This image - putting something on in order to deepen the longing (groaning!) for, and joy in Easter and Jesus' resurrection as the first fruit of new creation - is really what Lent is all about. I have found preparing well makes Easter and all it holds all the more celebratory and meaningful.
What to "Wear?"
Lent and Spiritual Practices
The English word "Lent" comes from the Old English word lencten, which means "lengthen" and refers to the time in spring when daylight grows longer. Starting with Ash Wednesday, Lent is a 40-day preparation for, and pilgrimage towards the Holy Triduum (the three days of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday which celebrate Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection). In many ways, this season is the fulcrum of the entire Gospel, as well as the highlight of the Church calendar.
Christians have historically taken on the following spiritual practices during Lent. Perhaps you wish to participate in these in some way this year:
Reflection and Repentance: Considering our sin in where we have not loved God, our neighbours, and ourselves in things we've thought, said, done, or not done; asking God for forgiveness and grace to increase in faith, hope, and love; growing in our felt dependence and gratitude that "Apart from [Jesus], we can do nothing."
Fasting, Prayer, and Generosity: Voluntarily setting something aside for a time in order to create margin for heightened attention to, and feasting on God (this attention and feasting is prayer); remembering those who are poor and engaging in loving service (e.g. "almsgiving").
Scripture: Hearing, reading, meditating on God's word in order to listen to, savour, and respond to God's personal communication with you here and now.
Weekly Lent Prayer (Online)
This Lent, every Thursday after Ash Wednesday till Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter), we will have a regular contemplative gathering on Zoom. "Contemplative" simply means taking a long, loving, look at God and noticing our response. It's a posture of patience and rapt attention, all with God's grace and love.
Our gatherings will begin with silence, involve listening to scripture (using Pray as You Go) and conversation with God about it, and end with a benediction. Please bring a candle - we'll light them together to start each gathering.
7pm - 7:30pm CDT, Thursdays during Lent (March 10 - April 14)
Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85031362931May we experience the Father's love, the grace and peace of Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit this Lent. We are an Easter people and ours is an Easter faith!
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.
This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins had been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church.
Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Saviour, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith. I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.~ 1978 Book of Common Prayer