Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I have to admit, Lent is probably my favorite liturgical season. My first year as a Catholic, I was so enthusiastic about the whole “giving up” something that I decided to give up food for Lent. That’s right, food. Youthful exuberance is not to be overcome by such minor issues as subsistence. Needless to say, I was a cranky jerk for two weeks before I gave up the practice (which was more of a sacrifice for my friends than for me).
My enthusiasm for such practices was due to my upbringing. Growing up in a Methodist church in the Midwest, we never celebrated any liturgical seasons. Advent, Lent, even Easter beyond Easter Sunday were unknown to me. When I started being introduced to Catholicism while in college, I quickly began to appreciate the beauty of the liturgical calendar.
Over the past few years, I have begun to notice that many non-liturgical traditions have begun to observe Advent and Lent. It looks like this is becoming a trend:
Long the province of the Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopalian, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, Lent — a period of penitence, fasting and almsgiving — has always been regarded by many Protestants, particularly Evangelicals, as ritualistic or extra-Biblical.
Yet increasingly, Protestant church communities are embracing Lent as a period of reflection and spiritual growth.
Hladek said Crossroads began observing Lent a couple years ago after reading Rick Warren, the pastor-author of The Purpose Driven Life , describe the significance of 40-day periods in the Bible.
Church members, Hladek said, embraced Lent.
While Hladek does not impose ashes on the foreheads of worshippers, as do most mainline priests and pastors, he does ask church members to focus deeply during the 40-day period on a particular theme. Last year, the theme was the many names for Jesus and God. This year, it is hope.
I find this trend very encouraging and I’ll be praying for our non-Catholic brothers and sisters this Lent to enter into the mystery of Christ’s Passion more fully through traditional liturgical practices.