Dear People of God,
Lent has begun and the Church’s greatest season of preparation is underway. We have turned our minds from the miracles and revelations of Epiphanytide toward the last forty days of making ready for those who will be baptized at Easter and all of us who will renew our baptismal covenant at the same time. We set aside added time for spiritual practices, prayer, reading, and reflection as we ready ourselves for the renewed commitments and great celebrations of Eastertide.
This process of preparation is one of looking backward at what has gone before in an effort to better look forward and ready ourselves for what is to come. We examine the events of the past year and think on what they mean for our lives of faith.
What in the year was of God? What blessings and graces and new revelations came out of that time? How have they shaped our lives and transformed us into forms more like Christ than we were?
What in the year was not of God? What moments were born out of our lifelong wrestling with sin? When did our selfishness, our pride, our envy, our anger, or our gluttony get the better of us and lead us from God’s will? How might we name those moments, repent of them, make efforts to set our actions to rights, and return to God?
For what in the year are we thankful? The moments that were clearly of God are low-hanging fruit when we look to give thanks. But perhaps in those moments not of God, in hindsight, there is also something to be thankful for. Lessons learned, healing felt, and a commitment to remain more strongly focused on God’s will in our lives are all possible thanksgivings from those difficult patches.
With all of these in mind, having examined the year gone, we look toward what is coming. How might we bear all of this godliness, the lessons learned, and all of our thanksgivings to lay them on the altar at the Easter celebrations? How might we make all of this a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving when we renew our commitment to strive to be evermore like Christ in the world? I cannot answer those questions; the responses will be different for each of us, but it is the work of the life to which we have accepted God’s call.
In this season of preparation, of looking both forward and back, it seems fitting to leave you with a prayer written by St Benedict of Nursia. The prayer is a simple series of requests to God for gifts needed in the course of a Christian life, perhaps especially appropriate in Lent:
O gracious and holy God,
give us wisdom to perceive you,
diligence to seek you,
patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
and a life to proclaim you,
through the power of the Spirit
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Wishing you a holy Lent,
The Rev. Andrew Rampton
Written for the Parish of Holy Trinity, Winnipeg