Lent again! Recently I thought this is like a season when a ship pulls into a convenient port for needed repairs and overhauls. Yet it is so much more than that, of course. I ran across something written by the English priest George Congreve, SSJE many years ago; because he was a great soul, his thoughts are worth sharing, even if this proves a longer read than usual. He wrote this at a time when Lent was taken seriously by the society in general. Nevertheless, I find it helpful. Maybe you will too. Here goes:
“Lent is no mere ceremonial regulation, like the Lord Chamberlain’s order for Court mourning for so many days. As if the Church should announce that on Ash Wednesday immemorial custom and ecclesiastical propriety demand that we begin to live sadly for forty days, put aside every encouraging consideration, and dwell upon past sin and the consequences of eternal sin. ….joy is out of season for six weeks. On the contrary, George Herbert writes, ‘Welcome, dear feast of Lent’; and the meaning of Lent is the spring of the soul and of the Church. It symbolizes not the despair or indifference of the dead in sin, the winter of the soul, but the spring, the stirring of mysteries hidden in the depths of our nature, the silent awaking of a desire to love God, which is new and wonderful–of a capacity of growing in likeness to Christ…” He continues:
“The soul is setting herself in a quiet time to remember the highest and deepest thoughts she ever had, and deliberately to choose afresh the highest aim she ever caught sight of. All who intend to obey the Church, and keep Lent, mean that by the grace of God they intend to grow through these forty days in the knowledge and love of God.”
Congreve reflects on the ancient saints, how Lent was for them “a school of Christ.” It should be a ‘school’ for us too – a school that awakens spiritual HOPE in us. This is not the sort of ‘hope’ the world can offer but the theological virtue of that name. But that for another time!