Lent is a season of preparation leading up to Easter. It is the forty days plus the six Sundays before Easter. For centuries, it has been observed as a special time of self examination and penitence. Lent is a time for concentration on fundamental values and priorities, and is not a time for self punishment.
The custom is to mark the season of Lent by giving up some things and taking on others. Both can serve to mark the season as a holy time of preparation and help bring 'new life.' Some examples of things people give up for Lent include sweets, meat for all or some meals, and alcohol. In most cases, giving up something for Lent can be made more meaningful by using the money or time for another purpose. For example, meal times on fast days could be spent in prayer. Another example is that if you give up meat or alcohol during Lent, the extra money can be given to a group, such as Episcopal Relief and Development or through our Lenten Offering to the Children’s Mission in New Haven. Some things added during Lent are daily Bible reading, our Lenten Study with the Lutherans, and times of prayer.
Note that the season of Lent is forty days plus the six Sundays. This is because Sundays are always 'little Easters,' celebrations of Jesus’ resurrection and are always an appropriate day to lessen the restrictions of Lent. So that if you have, for example, given up chocolate for Lent, you could indulge in a weekly candy bar on Sunday.
Whatever you deny yourself or add to your personal discipline, the goal is increasing your own awareness of God in your life. Lent should be a time of deeper reflection, a time to discover and remove the self-made barriers that keep you from experiencing God more fully. Then your joy in celebrating Easter and that 'new life' will be all the more meaningful as you will have spent this last six weeks drawing closer to God.
***Using the Book of Common Prayer:
“Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families” beginning on p. 136 in the Book of Common Prayer. These are one page devotions for morning, noon, evening and at the end of the day.
The "Litany of Penitence" from the Ash Wednesday service, BCP p. 267, is especially fitting for this season.
One form that is particularly broad, inclusive and appropriate for this season can be found in the liturgy for Good Friday on pages 277 - 280. Composed to serve as the Prayers of the People for the Good Friday liturgy and entitled "The Solemn Collects", these prayers remind us that when we pray as the People of God, we are in spiritual communion with Christians past, present and future.
Oremus: daily prayer, liturgy, hymns, prayer resources
Stations of the Cross
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead, to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 282)(Thank you to the Rev. Frank Logue for his resources on keeping a holy lent.)