The name ‘Lent’ comes from the Old English word for spring – literally the time of year when the days start to lengthen. It was adopted by the Church to mark the period of preparation and looking forward to the commemoration of the death of Jesus in Holy Week, and the celebration of his resurrection on Easter Day and throughout Eastertide, right up until Pentecost.
We find this intention reflected in our worship, which seeks both to express a spirit of penitence and to provide a contrast to the joyful celebration of Easter. We begin our journey on Ash Wednesday with a service of silence, reflection and penitence, which includes the imposition of ashes. We end it keeping company with Jesus on the last days before he was crucified on Good Friday. This is a solemn time which has given rise to the popular idea of ‘giving things up’ for Lent.
To say it is solemn is not to say it is dreary or dull. In keeping Lent with the Church, and taking to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, Christians grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord. By such careful preparation we shall also experience the greater joy of Easter.
Lent has been likened to a lock on a canal. Your boat or barge goes in at the low level. The gate is shut and the water rises. When the lock is full and the other gate is opened you go out – but now on a higher plane.
After years of happily drinking from single-use plastic bottles and accepting that our food comes wrapped in multiple layers of plastic, we’re waking up to the impact this throwaway culture is having on nature. Blue Planet II has helped to highlight how wildlife suffers from ingesting plastic waste and being tangled in it … and that’s just the stuff we can see. Smaller plastic particles swallowed by fish and other creatures eventually enter the food chain.
Change is desperately needed. While it may be difficult to replace all plastic production, we must undoubtedly end single use of plastics. This Lent, Christians around the UK are trying to cut back on plastic as part of the #PlasticLessLent movement. We’ve already ditched disposable cups and cutlery in the parish. Single-use plastic bags have become an exception, and most people now use their own bags for shopping. It’s more and more common to see people walking into coffee shops with a reusable cup. All of this is encouraging progress.
However, we need to do more. How often do we still use single-use plastics? Lent gives us a good opportunity to learn more about our habits and make a greater effort to change them. Please click here for a Lent calendar that gives daily ideas about how to get started.
Lent in the parish
Tuesdays, 7.30 pm, parish rooms
Silent meditation in the Christian tradition
Wednesdays, 10–10.55 am, St Matthew’s
York course, ‘On the third day’,
13 March–10 April
Wednesdays, 7.30 pm, parish rooms
Talks followed by group discussion,
13 March–10 April
dear feast of Lent
The words are George Herbert’s. And he employs a striking pun. We might have expected, ‘Welcome, dear fast of Lent’, but for fast we get ‘feast’. I picture a banqueting table. On it are beautifully crafted vessels, each one so expensive, so costly, so perfectly wrought. The vessels are full to overflowing; the delights and delicacies within them are the fruits of forgiveness, salvation, life, hope, joy, holiness. They are mouth-watering, because we recognise our hunger and thirst for this rich fare.
The Beloved in the Song of Songs, that poem that speaks of Easter joy and delight, when the time for singing has come, says of the Lover, ‘He led me into his banqueting house and his banner over me is love’. May this Lent be such a feast.
Canon David Kennedy, sourced from www.durhamcathedral.co.uk