“But,” you say, “Orin! How can that be? Lent begins this week. Don’t you know that Lent is all sad and repentant and morose and sackcloth and ashes and other depressing things?”
Well, I know it’s Lent, yes, but Lent need not be those things, at least not overly so. Indeed we ought to be repentant, and sad for our sinfulness. And, further, knowing our sinfulness led Jesus to his suffering and death on the cross, well, sure, we can be sad and even grieve these things.
But to do so without also knowing there’s more to the story is to, in a sense, make an idol out of only one tiny facet of our faith. We must always take our faith as a whole – it’s not like during Advent we forget for four weeks that Jesus did actually come to ransom captive Israel. It’s not like during Lent we should remember only the repentance, the suffering, the death. We should also, while celebrating these things, remember that there is new life that arises from these very same things – there is joy and even more celebrating to come.
Did you catch, there, that we “celebrate,” even in Lent? It’s true. There’s an expression, in Latin, that goes:
Lex orandi, lex credendi
Which is to say, in English: “The law of prayer is the law of belief.” Even more simply, we pray what we believe, and we believe what we pray. With that in mind, let’s turn to a prayer that we will hear and pray together very soon:
Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed. You give us a spirit of loving reverence for you, our Father, and of willing service to our neighbor. As we recall the great events that gave us new life in Christ, you bring the image of your Son to perfection within us. (Preface for the 1st Sunday of Lent)
We pray that lent is a “joyful season” in which we prepare to “celebrate” the paschal mystery – Christ’s redemptive suffering, death, and resurrection. And, as we ponder these things, we become more Christ-like through the power of God perfecting that image within us.
So, I (Orin) have attached to this post an image. This Wednesday, after our parish school’s 8th graders lead music ministry at one of our morning masses, I’ll be giving them each one of these – hopefully to remind them that Lent, which we should dive into whole-heartedly and intensely, is only one part of a broader story, a broader mystery, which as a whole tells us where we’ve come from, who we are now and who we should strive to be, and the future that awaits us all if we help each other grow in faith and holiness.
Blessings on our Lenten journeys this year, one and all. —Orin