Tomorrow Lent officially begins with the fast day of Ash Wednesday. I have always had a great love of Lent ever since I began to keep it somewhat haphazardly as an evangelical. Lent always held a sense of mystery for me because I grew up in an evangelical tradition that never really embraced Lent (but, thankfully didn’t condemn it either; think of it as a "personal option."). I started to become interested in Lent about the same time I took an interest in the Church Fathers.
My first experience with Lent was as an evangelical at university. In a way, I was quite brave because I gave up coffee! It was honestly the hardest Lent I’ve ever been through, but I faithfully didn’t touch a drop until I broke the Lenten fast with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. That was the best cup of coffee I ever had in my entire life! When I became an Anglican I entered into Lent on a more formal level and it was a time of important spiritual growth. After my conversion to Catholicism my love of and participation in Lent has only increased.
In short: I love Lent. I can’t really explain why I look forward to Lent, but I receive an incredible sense of joy throughout these 40 days. There’s something about the "spiritual housecleaning" and sense of detachment and renunciation that brings about great spiritual satisfaction and blessing. I now could never truly know the joy of Easter without the season of Lent and the time of Holy Week and the Triduum. We can’t separate the Cross from the resurrection and we can’t liturgically separate Lent from Easter either: at least not with any theological integrity.
With all other Catholics of a certain age, I will be fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and having meatless Fridays. However, it’s also a venerable custom to “give something up” for Lent or institute positive practices that encourage spiritual growth. This year I’m thinking of giving up adding hot chocolate to my morning coffee. I’m also going to give up going to McDonald’s when I get a craving and getting snacks at the local gas station. I’m also going to read the Church Fathers and the Bible daily. I’m not saying this to brag about my supposed piety, but merely to give suggestions to others.
May God bless you this Lent! (I’m off to McDonalds)
Chad has commented here and here.
LutherPunk is excited that Lent is coming
Argent writes about going into the wilderness
John Heard reminds us that we are but dust
St. Peters Helpers gives a great post on preparing for Lent
The Anchoress says there’s something about ashes