Tomorrow we will once again move into the season of Lent. For me, the experience of living the church year—which has sustained my walk with Jesus for all of my adult life and more than two-thirds of my whole life (I would think math-types would have almost enough information there to solve for x, x being my age)—is like an old vinyl record, turning round and round again, the needle of the tonearm tracing the grooves of Christ’s life ever more deeply into my own with each pass.
Each year, Lent begins with the invitation to remember. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And each year calls us to die to self, to practice that walk towards dust which is our lives, and to learn the habit, yet again, of dying to self so that we might live more fully to God and to others in love.
It is fashionable of late to think of Lent and its disciplines—whether disciplines of abstinence or disciplines of engagement—as tools to a better self. Lose weight. Read more. Read better! Learn something. Lent is more and more considered just another self-help tool in a self-obsessed world.
Lent is about denying oneself. Turning away from oneself. Humbling oneself. Dying to oneself. I give up fried foods only to discover myself absent-mindedly munching on fries just weeks (ok, days!) after Lent began. I am so set on satisfying my self.
So, this year I want to invite you, and me, to enter into this Holy Lent as a means not of improving ourselves, but of confronting just how much of our selves there really is that must be died to, and how incredibly hard that is.
Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, is one of the two days in the church year where we are called specifically to fast (the other being Good Friday). As our Prayer Book says, “It is in this sure hope (the grace we have been given by the resurrected Jesus Christ) that we begin the journey of these forty days, that by hearing and answering out Savior’s call to repent, we may enter fully into the joyful celebration of his resurrection.” (BCP 2019, 542).
With prayers for a Holy Lent,
Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina