February 10, 2010
The Season of Lent
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.
The word season has many meanings, and each tells us something about what Lent can and should mean for us.
first of all, one of the four seasons of the year. Lent falls during the
late winter and early spring seasons. This year Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, falls on February 17. Lent ends at Holy Thursday, the beginning of the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter). Easter, this year, is on April 4.
Everyone knows the date for Easter is different
every year. If you've ever wondered how it is determined, here is the answer. Use it to stump your friends! Easter Sunday is the first Sunday following the first full moon that follows
the spring equinox. Spring begins on March 20/21.Check your calendar for the
next full moon after that date. Easter is the next Sunday. So, this year, the first full moon
occurs on March 29th (Monday), and thus the next Sunday, April 4, is
Easter Sunday. That rule applies every year.
But season also means “a time of
year when something is best." For example, "oyster season" refers to the months when oysters are at peak flavor and supply. And season used as a verb (“to
season”) means to heighten the flavor of food by adding condiments and other
All of these meanings can help us to grasp the deeper meaning
of Lent. First
of all, to approach Easter—the most significant feast of our faith and of the Church year—we need to prepare ourselves as we do for any major celebration or
event. Anyone involved in making wedding plans knows you don’t do
that over the weekend. It takes time to make sure everything is just right
for this most important day.
Important Truths Can Fade
say, “Well, I believe already; I go to Mass and communion regularly, so why all
the fuss?” The truth is that there is not one of us who doesn’t need to
refresh ourselves, our consciousness and our awareness of what our faith means.
That is true of priests and religious as well as lay people.
We need to be
honest with ourselves. The simple fact is that no matter how great something
is, we can take it for granted. We get used to it and it can fade in importance. Other less important things begin to take precedence. What husband and wife in their marriage have
not had to ask themselves whether they are taking each other for
granted? A priest who offers Mass each day can find himself losing awareness of
the sacredness of the act he is offering each day.
“Familiarity can breed contempt” is not just a clever
saying; we know the truth of it from our experience.
Lent is a time to “season” our lives with a deeper realization of what we
actually believe. Jesus, son of God, died for me. My own efforts and good
work don’t save me. They are important because they make
faith alive in my life, not just an abstract fact in my head. Some say, “Of course I
believe, but don’t ask me to get to serious about it.” Lent is dead serious, because it is about life
If Easter, the resurrection of Jesus,
our Lord and Savior, is the greatest of all our feasts, we must prepare and
remind ourselves how graced and fortunate we are that we are believers. When a loved one dies, we know that the truth of the resurrection eases our
tears of loss and temporary separation. Jesus’ resurrection causes
us to know that we and our loved ones will be together some day with God in heaven.
Now, some of
us old folks remember the many fast and abstinence days we experienced early
on. Less is required now: fasting only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent. Actually,
that’s pretty mild.
Voluntary acts of self-denial, beyond the minimum requirements, can also be beneficial for us. But there are many other acts we can do that can bring us a
deeper awareness during the Lenten season. Could you go to Mass one day a week during Lent? Could you make a little donation to some worthy cause each week by
giving up an alcoholic beverage? What about giving up smoking (which would be
healthy and surely penitential) and giving the money saved to help another?
Lent is always a good time to get to confession, especially if you have been
avoiding this sacrament. What about simply looking at your own temperament and
asking, “In my relationships with others, have I been getting moody
this past year?” What about determining to treat others at
work or in the family with more kindness, considerateness and awareness of
We are so blessed with our faith. We
know the answers to the most important questions of life: Why are we here on
earth? What’s my purpose and what has God called me to do? Am I doing what I
know I should be doing? Lent is a perfect season to take stock of our lives and
show the Lord we are grateful for the gift of faith.
Dear Bernadette: In my judgment, the words mean something like, “forever and ever. Amen.” It seems quite possible
to many of us that our “world” may someday end, but the world of the Father, Son
and Holy Spirit will never end, according to our faith perspective. These are
my thoughts, such as they are. Friar
Dear Joris: Knowing
your special background as a biblical scholar and teacher of the Scriptures, I
am pleased with your kind words about the column. I also appreciate your
additional insights into the meaning of glory, especially the aspect of
“enlightenment.” It is indeed true that, as we go through the Scriptures, we
frequently see instances of God’s glory “shining” in many different ways. Many
thanks, Friar Jack
Dear Ames and Barbara: And I appreciate your
supportive words regarding my reflections on the Glory Be. Let me take this
occasion to once again assure you and all the readers of Friar Jack’s E-spirations that I keep you and your loved ones all
around the world in the prayers I now raise to our most gracious and glorious
Holy Trinity! Friar Jack
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