Wednesday, 04 April 2018 19:51

Lent

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 of spiritual cleansing, of prayer, and of growth in faith…a time of returning to the Lord our God, who is gracious and merciful and abounding in steadfast love.

If you have found yourself away from church and wondered about another try, Lent is the perfect time. For centuries, Lent has offered a chance to try the fellowship of the church one more time. In fact, Lent developed as a way to receive people back into church. If you are questioning your own faith and wondering what you believe, this could be the perfect time to come back to church.

Throughout Lent, the worship services of the church take on a simpler tone, appropriate to this season. Crosses showing the risen Christ are veiled. The word "Alleluia" is not used in the words of the liturgy or hymns. These practices help the worshipping community to mark this season of renewal as a special time in the church year.

Observing Lent
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. 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 during Lent, the extra money that would go to meat dishes can be given to a group, such as World Vision, which works to end hunger worldwide, or Daily Bread which supports London families. Some things added during Lent might be daily Bible reading, extra times of prayer or taking a course of study related in some way to spirituality.  Note that the season of Lent is forty days plus the six Sundays. This is because Sundays are 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.

A Question and a Challenge for Lent
At the heart of becoming a disciple of Jesus lies the process of transformation, and at the heart of transformation we find the question, “Where is God in this?” In the midst of our daily living during these 40 days of Lent, can we stop at least once every day to ask this question, and then listen for the whisper of God’s Spirit to us guiding our reflection and our response? Perhaps it can become a habit, a holy habit. Jesus was a master of using the everyday to stretch his disciples beyond their usual view of people, their world, and their understanding of God. Have an experience? Witness an event, reading a particular news story? Don’t rush through, stop … pause … consider, Where is God in this?

Ash Wednesday, 7pm
As we gather on the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, we participate in a liturgy and a ritual that is ancient in its origins. Our prayer book tells us that these ashes, placed upon our foreheads in the shape of the cross, are a sign that speak to us of the frailty and uncertainty of human life. As they are placed upon our heads, we hear the chorus ringing over us as the celebrant moves from person to person, ‘Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ This may seem an odd, even morbid focus for us, in a society that goes to great lengths to avoid the reality of our own morality, but on this very special evening, far from running from our own mortality, we stand before it, in all its harshness, and we give a nod to its truth. It is no lie, we are dust and to dust we will return. Everything eventually passes. Yet within the parameters of our beginnings and endings, in the interlude called life – much is possible as we acknowledge the love given to us by God, and moving out into the world we strive to extend it to those who spend so many of their days painfully aware that they are dust. It is somehow, nestled in the finiteness of life, and in the rhythmic gesture of this night, that we are invited into each day to acknowledge its fresh brilliance while allowing our resolve to grow ever stronger in service to our God … mindful, grateful, and infused with love. Ash Wednesday, not a service that you usually attend? Never too late to start a good habit. We are especially blessed this year that Bishop Linda will be with us as Celebrant and Officiant. Please plan on attending.

Special Days and Services
Shrove Tuesday
This is actually the day before Lent begins. The day is named for the "shriving" or confessing that was traditional on this day before beginning Lent. This day is also known as Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday," because it was a time for eating the things from which one would abstain during Lent. Pancake suppers are traditional as they were a way of using up some of the ingredients not needed during Lent.  St. Anne’s has an annual pancake supper on Shrove Tuesday.

Ash Wednesday
The first day of Lent is marked with fasting, when safe, and a special liturgy. The theme for the day, though not for all of Lent, is that we stand as sinners condemned to die, but for God’s grace. This is symbolized by the imposition of ashes on the forehead, with the words, "You are dust and to dust you shall return." In the Old Testament, ashes were a sign of penitence (feeling regretful at offenses) and mourning.

St. Anne’s holds an Ash Wednesday service at 7 pm in the church.

Stations of the Cross
These are depictions of 14 incidents in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death, from the condemnation at Pilate’s house to being placed in the tomb. They are used for the service called the Way of the Cross, which visits each station in turn with a brief reading, response, collect and on some occasions, a meditation. This is particularly appropriate for Good Friday and all Fridays in Lent.

The object of the Stations is to help the faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, through meditating upon the chief scenes of Christ's sufferings and death.

We encourage you to experience this ancient tradition, remembering that Christ died to save us all from sin. Without truly experiencing the agony of His death, we cannot fully understand the glory of his Resurrection.

Stations of the Cross (or Way of the Cross; in Latin, Via Crucis; also called the Via Dolorosa or Way of Sorrows, or simply, The Way) refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. The tradition as chapel devotion began with St. Francis of Assisi and extended throughout the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period. It may be done at any time, but is most commonly done during the Season of Lent, especially on Good Friday and on Friday evenings during Lent.

The object of the Stations is to help us make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, through meditating upon the chief scenes of Christ's sufferings and death. It has become one of the most popular devotions for many Christians.

The Stations themselves are (usually) a series of 14 pictures or sculptures depicting the following:
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus receives the cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets His Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
6. Veronica wipes Jesus' face with her veil
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense

Each of us wants and needs to have space for quiet, for then one begins to see with the eyes of the heart” - Desmond Tutu.

Come to the Via Dolorosa and take up the Cross. Be with Jesus as He makes his final walk on this earth.  Each Station bears its own witness to Our Lord’s final grueling journey. Who will you identify with? Perhaps with Simon of Cyrene who helps and picks up the cross, or perhaps with Veronica who steps out of the crowd to wipe the sweat from His eyes?

Take time this Lent, to not only “talk the talk”, but also “walk the walk”. Experience what happened over 2,000 years ago and know how much He loved us then and how much He loves us now.

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