Keeping a Holy Lent
An invitation to walk even more closely with Jesus
What is Lent?
Lent is a particularly important season in the Christian yearly pattern of prayer, reflection and worship. It begins on Ash Wednesday and goes on until Holy Saturday. Traditionally the 40 days and nights of Lent do not include Sundays, which are reserved for ‘refreshment’.
From the early years of the Christian Church Lent was used as a period of preparation for those who would be baptised at Easter and also for those who were to be reconciled having been excluded from the fellowship for serious faults. This explains the character of Lent. In time it became a season for self-examination, penitence, the receiving of God’s grace, prayer for ourselves and others, self-denial and recommitment, study, charity and preparation for Easter for every Christian.
How is Lent kept?
As mentioned, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence and from the middle ages on it has become the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross.
Many Churches, including St Barnabas, mark Lent as a penitential season in their worship. This is why you will notice that the church is left bare of the beautiful flowers which adorn it at other times of year and the Gloria is omitted. This is a reminder that in Lent we are invited to put aside other distractions in order to focus fully on God.
There is a greater emphasis placed on self-examination, confession and prayer. Individual people vary in their personal observance of Lent. Some also vary what they do from year to year in order that they might make a conscious choice about how they will keep this Lent. Generally Lent is observed by giving more time to prayer, to self-examination, to study, to fasting (from food, drink or another aspect of life such as TV) and by giving money to charity.
Why Keep Lent?
The Christian life is a marathon not a sprint. Discipleship, holiness and a deep relationship with God are built slowly. Lent is about this desire to go deeper in our faith and so Lent is not done in a day or an hour. It is a journey over 40 days and 40 nights.
Lent therefore is a gift from God through which he can renew and refresh our faith during our Lenten pilgrimage. Through our keeping of Lent we are invited to draw closer to God.
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you”
How can I decide how to keep this Lent?
Remember you can’t do everything and so what’s important is to identify the things God would have you do.
- Pray. Offer this forthcoming season of Lent to the Lord. Invite him to use it as he wills. Ask him to direct you towards what he would have you learn and how he’d have you grow as his disciple.
- If you have an inner ‘pull’ or hunch, then follow it, praying that God may show you if you’ve misheard him.
- If you sense no particular leading, don’t worry. Just choose something realistic and manageable that you think will benefit your spiritual growth and perhaps be a help to others too.
- Act on what ever you decide, praying that God will strengthen and bless you as you embark on and keep a holy Lent.
- Remember not to give up if you have a set-back – it’s a wonderful opportunity to be reminded that Jesus offers us grace all the time. Simply resolve to pick up where you left. Though it may be worth spending time thinking about why you slipped-up. For example did you take on too much? Or does it show you something about yourself or about God?
Our aim at St Barnabas is to offer different opportunities to help you as you keep a holy Lent. Please see the separate leaflet which will set out what’s available through St Barnabas this year.
Consider giving up something:
A meal a week…or maybe more and giving the money you save towards the Lent Appeal.
A particular kind of food or drink: meat, fish, sweets, coffee, tea, alcohol. Each time you notice you are going without use it as a springboard to prayer.
Using the car when walking or public transport is possible.
Consider adding something in:
More time in prayer.
More physical exercise.
Making an extra point of affirming others perhaps by of sending cards of encouragement and thanks.
More study (on your own or through the Lent course).
Reading a Christian book.
Give thanks before or after meals.
Reviewing your life priorities and your use of time.
Going to Church every Sunday if you don’t already.
Something creative to express or to discover your gifts.
Centering on the cross. Have a cross on display at home as a focal point for Lenten prayer. Make the sign of the cross before eating.
Memorising scripture and hymns.
- Join us for our regular Sunday services
- 8am Quiet Communion (no music)
- 10am Lively Mass (with youth and children's work)