Puzzling over Lent

With one of the liturgical seasons coming to a close and with a big Sunday on the horizon — we’re not talking Epiphany and Super Bowl but Lent and chocolate bunnies or eggs — a brief comment on the time of the year just passing may be in order. Peter Leithart has been blogging about Lent, which indicates that his church in Moscow, Idaho is following the church calendar as is my own denomination and diocese here in New Jersey. On Wednesday this week he reposted a number of tweets about the benefits of Lent. Here is a sampling:

We’re hungry for all the wrong things. We need Lent to develop a taste for the fruit of the tree of life – that is, the fruit of the cross.

An exercise in delayed gratification, Lent is profoundly counter-cultural.

Lent gives the only answer there is to the problem of evil: A cross that triumphs over evil, a death that tramples death.

Lent tells us what time it is – the time between resurrection and resurrection.

Lent reminds us that Jesus didn’t go to the cross so we can escape the cross; He went to the cross to enable us to bear it after Him.

Lent gives us 40 days to contemplate the glory of the Crucified, which saves the world.

Here’s my puzzle. Aside from whether or not these statements are true, if they are, why wouldn’t Christians want to reflect on or practice these things the whole year? Is it really possible to take 319 days off from considering that we live between the resurrection and resurrection? Or do we want to spend only forty days contemplating the glory of the Christ crucified?

The claims made for Lent are actually daily realities of any believer “in Christ Jesus”. I’ve heard the reason for Lent arguments for years, but when I raise my puzzle, am usually answered with sigh at how impractical it is to expect Christians to live within a Lenten tension for very long. But doesn’t that actually beg a deeper question of the poor state of the Church today? Don’t we all need to be brought under the power of the Gospel every day?

3 thoughts on “Puzzling over Lent

  1. Hi Fr. Henry – Not sure if this way of replying is going to reach you so let me know. Otherwise, I’ll send it the usual way.Thanks!

    There is an article online that speaks directly to this question, written by Gregg Strawbridge. Gregg is a pastor of All Saints Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, Pa. The title of it is: “What Time Is It? A Defense of the Church Calendar.” It centers and debates around scripture and is written for professional pastors. The church is reformed evangelical. To read it, type in Gregg Strawbridge or All Saints Presbyterian Church, or: allsaints-church.com/church-calendar-defense.aspx.

    Let me know if it was helpful.

    1. Thanks Joanne. I have read Gregg’s article which defends the “five evangelical feast days:” Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost but does not add Lent!

  2. Interestingly, the practice of Lent is included within the church calendar at Gregg’s pastored church – (All Saints Church). My understanding of Gregg’s article in that particular point was that he was not opposed to Lent, but rather was making reference to the German Reformed Church when speaking of the “five evangelical feast days.” But that said…repentance is year long and more than a “season,” or “feast day.” As Martin Luther stated: “…our entire life is one of repentance.” I think Lent establishes and shows us the model for salvation but it certainly doesn’t end there. It begins there! Yes? Thanks for teaching me these things 🙂

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