Some (low church) folks roll their eyes when they see that word “Lent” in the title of this post, and other (often high church) folks said, “Ah, yes, something for all of us.” The Church calendar is designed to embody the gospel itself on an annual basis: we begin the birth of the Messiah and then through a season called Epiphany and then we move into Lent and Holy Week with focus on Good Friday and Easter, and then we head for Pentecost and the rest of the year is called Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is designed to focus on various elements of the Christian faith and mission.
How do you prepare for Lent? Or how will you prepare for Lent? Or, from another angle, why do you not prepare for Lent?
Well, some will say, the NT doesn’t teach a church calendar and so there’s no need for it. To which I (really not “I” but the Church) say, “Hold on, dear friend.” God so ordained Israel’s life so that it would re-live and embody the great saving events in God’s relationship with Israel. So, let’s begin right there: God evidently really does care to institutionalize saving events into a calendrical form. The Christians, from very, very early, wisely restructured the calendar to be shaped by the saving events in the life of Jesus. (And I don’t say this to snub my messianic friends who are Jewish. I see no reason why we can’t combine the Christian calendar with Israel’s calendar.)
Now, on to two books I can recommend to you for this year’s calendar, and one of them is mine and I do because I’m keen on getting the message out. Fasting is one of the misunderstood disciplines, and it is of some concern to me (at least) that it may not best be seen as a spiritual discipline. In my book called Fasting: The Ancient Practices
, here at a Bargain Price, I urge us to move away from seeing fasting as something done in order to get something, and learn to see it as a response to some grievous or sacred moment/event. (I use a letter system.)
A (grievous moment, liked death) –> B (act of fasting) –> C (benefit)
I hear too many suggestion we should fast (B) in order to get (C). I suggest in my book that the biblical pattern is much more A (grievous, sacred moment) triggering the natural response of fasting (B), whether we get C or not. Furthermore, fasting is an act whereby we enter into the pathos of God regarding that grievous moment. Anyway, I hope the book can be of use to you this Lent.
And there’s a brand new book that takes us into Lent through lectio divina. Stephen Binz, in Conversing with God in Lent: Praying the Sunday Mass Readings with Lectio Divina
, offers us a lectio reading of the Church’s Lenten Sunday lectionary readings in all three cycles (A, B, and C). Binz is a Roman Catholic biblical scholar who cares to communicate the Word of God to ordinary folks through the lectio approach to Scripture reading. (He explains what lectio is in clear terms.) Thus:
Lectio, meditatio, oratio (prayer), contemplatio and operatio.
A very good book, especially for pastors pondering Lenten season sermons.