As Peter, James and John woke up, a bit startled from their sleep, cobwebs still grasping at their eyelids, they heard a discussion they didn’t quite understand. They saw Jesus glorified, glowing white like snow and flashing like lightning. Moses and Elijah were there two. As these three—Jesus, Moses and Elijah—talked, the subject matter was clear. It was time for Jesus to depart. It was time for his work to be completed. Thus, Jesus and his disciples with him were prepared for the difficult work to come.
Easter is the high point of the Christian church year. It is the time when we celebrate the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Savior and the completion of Jesus’ saving work. The church has long recognized a need to prepare for this celebration, and therefore Lent has been celebrated since the time of the early church.
Lent is a season of repentance in which we remember the reason that Jesus was born of a virgin and suffered death on the cross, namely, our sin. In this way, Lent serves as a somber time in the church year, but this somber spirit is always hopeful and anticipatory. It looks forward to God’s greatest gift. It reminds us not only of God’s grace, but of our absolute need for Jesus.
In the early church, Lent was the season in which candidates for Baptism were instructed in the mysteries of the faith, learning such central teachings as the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. In this way, catechetical instruction for the whole congregation during Lent can serve as a reminder of the connection we have with the saints of the early church. (This year we’re going to study the Lord’s Prayer during our Wednesday gatherings.)
During Lent there are many ways in which the penitential nature of the season is accentuated during the worship service. For example, hymns of praise, as well as alleluias, are often omitted. Since Lent accentuates our humility before God as sinners, congregations may invite kneeling during certain parts of the service as a sign of humility and submission. Through this practice, the members are able to involve their whole bodies in the penitential nature of the season.
Despite the penitential nature of Lent and the various reminders of the solemnity of this season, we remain focused on the Gospel of Christ, who is central throughout this season. Lent is to serve as a preparation for the celebration of our salvation on Easter Sunday. In order to prepare for this celebration we are reminded of our absolute need for salvation and our complete inability to save ourselves. Lent reminds us not only of our need for Jesus, but of God’s absolute love for us.
Join us for our Lenten Journey on Sundays at 10 am when we will be looking at the Gospel of Mark. Or come on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm when we will be looking at the Lord's Prayer, the best prayer ever.
FUN FACTS ABOUT LENT:
Season: Lent (It comes from the Latin word for “spring.”)
The Color Symbolizes: The color purple is a sign of both royalty and self-disciplined responsibility. In ancient times it was an expensive color to produce (requiring the “blood” of snails), and therefore it came to symbolize the “richness” of royalty as well as the self-sacrifice required to purchase it. In this way purple became a symbol of repentance.
Length: 40 days (The first recorded reference to the specific number of days in Lent was in 325 AD by the Council of Nicaea.) These forty days take us from Ash Wednesday up until Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week.