Sunday, February 10, 2008

Confessions of a Lent Lover

The Season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and continues 40 days, Sundays excluded, in preparation for Easter. Lent is a season of repentance and reflection, a time to turn from our sin and to look to Christ in faith. It is especially a time to remember the sufferings of Christ and His atoning work.

The gospel lessons during Lent highlight our Lord's struggle with the evil one. The first Sunday, Invocabit, reminds us of our Lord's struggle and victory over the temptations of Satan in the desert. On Reminscere Sunday Christ delivers the Canaanite woman's daughter from the demon. On Occuli Sunday Christ delivers a deaf-mute from demons and is accused by his human enemies of being the prince and ruler of the demons. Laetere Sunday is a respite with Christ feeding the five thousand, but on Judica Sunday the struggle intensifies with the enemies of Christ attempting to stone him. This struggle finds it culmination on Passion Sunday and Good Friday where Christ triumphs over sin, death, and hell on the cross.

Although Sundays are considered excluded from the 40 day count in Lent (Sundays are always celebrations of the resurrection), the mood of the Sundays in Lent is more subdued than most Sundays. The alleluias are absent, and there is no Gloria in excelsis. The gospel verse is changed in Lutheran Worship from "Alleluia, Lord to whom shall we go..." to "Return to the Lord Your God..." There are no flowers on the altar except on Laetere Sunday. During passiontide, beginning Judica Sunday, the crosses and crucifix are either removed or covered in purple.

Lent is also a season of catechesis. In the ancient church catechumens were prepared during Lent for their baptism at Easter Vigil. The Lutheran Church has customarily used the Lenten season for sermons on the catechism. This year we are looking forward to baptizing several people at Easter Vigil and during the Lenten season.

I love Lent. I love the Wednesday soup suppers, the increased focus on repentance and confession, and the anticipation of the celebration of Easter. I love the hymns and the responses. I love the Dorian chant. I love it all. Blessings to everyone during this blessed season.