“Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people.”
For many, Lent is about fasting and ‘giving things up’. Certainly, the three-fold aspect of Lent: prayer; fasting and alms-giving are still very much encouraged. Today, however, there is a focus on baptismal preparation and renewal. A return to the Early Church’s understanding of this Holy Season.
We catch a glimpse of this change in the alternative formula that accompanies the imposition of the Ashes on the individual: “Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel”. For the catechumen, the person who is preparing for Baptism, there is the invitation to leave old ways behind and enter in to the life of the Gospel; and for the believer, there is the invitation to renew one’s commitment to Gospel-living. For both, it is a clear call to conversion.
Lent is a journey that takes us from ashes to the font; we begin with nothing—ashes—only to gain the greatest gift of all—new life in the Resurrection. We embrace the need to die to sin and selfishness at the beginning of Lent so that we can come to fuller life in the Risen One at Easter.
Traditionally Lent lasts for 40 days echoing important events and journeys in the Bible: the Great Flood; the journey of the Hebrew Slaves in the desert; Moses in prayerful preparation before receiving the Law on Sinai; Jesus fasting in the desert as he prepares for his mission and ministry.
Liberation and baptism are profoundly linked in God’s redeeming love. Just as the Hebrew slaves passed to freedom through the waters of the Red Sea, so the newly baptised Christian passes from death to new life in the waters of Baptism to become an adopted child of God on whom every blessing is bestowed and an heir to the Kingdom of God. It is the beginning of a journey that will take the Christian through death and into the very presence of God.
Lent is a journey in which the Christian seeks to ‘make straight the way of the Lord’; to root out those tendencies that can divert one from the path that the Word of God puts before us. Through prayerful meditation upon God’s word, we open our eyes, ears, mind and heart to the vision and purpose that God has for us; and we renew our determination to be faithful to our discipleship. Walking in the shadow of the Cross, we fix our eyes on the Lord and hold before us the depth of God’s love for us revealed in the suffering and death of Jesus. And, in the power of the Spirit, we proclaim anew that Christ has died, Christ is Risen, and Christ will come in glory!