FROM THE RECTOR’S DESK
In my pastoral role, I call each of you to observe a holy Lent. I recall, from several years ago, a woman who began attending a church I served in
She was in her eighties, and had grown up in the Episcopal Church. She had
lived through many incremental changes over the years, watching as her denomination
turned into something unrecognizable, but slowly enough to have the effect of
boiling a frog alive; the frog does not notice the steady rise in heat, and so
remains in the water until it is too late. Arizona
This woman came to us in Lent of that year. After several weeks she asked why the services seemed so serious and sober. Why was it not more upbeat? She had forgotten what Lent is.
I do not blame her. It is the times in which we have been living, with that slowly creeping metamorphosis that has created a modern religion, one that emphasizes a warm and fuzzy feeling of inspiration. In the modern world, going back a while even to the days of my youth, the assumption and prejudice has been that anything old must always give place to what is new. For this reason the experimental and untried takes precedence over all that is tried and true, that has withstood the test of time, and that passes on wisdom.
And, as I am made aware by the intrusion of a loud media culture, Lent simply has no place in much of popular modern religion. A season that begins with the Penitential Office on Ash Wednesday, emphasizing, for its duration, repentance, fasting, and giving to the poor, culminating in the suffering and sorrows of Christ Himself during Holy Week, lacks that emphasis on entertainment and fun we have all too often come to expect and demand. It has no sizzle!
But, observing this very serious season is what the Church has done since ancient times. It prepares us for the joy of Easter. It calls us to look inwardly day by day, and to call on the Lord to cleanse and purify our hearts by His grace, and does so in a way that flashy show-biz religion cannot do. It teaches us to look death squarely in the face, and in doing so proclaims to us, especially as Easter takes over, that it is death, not life, that ultimately is fleeting. In serious recognition of the frailty of human reality, with the knowledge of God and His eternal promises, sober Lenten reflection banishes the terror of the grave from the hearts of all faithful people.
Happiness, by its modern definition of nothing more than an emotion, is dependent always on what happens. Joy, however, endures even in the midst of sorrow, has an eternal quality, and looks beyond the things of this world for its sure and certain hope.
So, I feel sorry for those who have abandoned the observance of Lent. They may excuse themselves from serious reflection, choosing instead the temporary feeling they call “happiness.” But, in the long run, they do not prepare their hearts to face reality with he joy of faith, and without fear.