i picked up alister mcgrath’s an introduction to christianity at a used bookstore several years ago. it’s been a nice reference and go-to guide when i have a general question regarding christianity. i appreciate his chapter on “the christian life” and find myself often going back to it when trying to remember or figure out aspects of the christian calendar and celebrations. his first couple sentences on “the christian year” read:
Christianity is not just a set of ideas; it is a way of life. Part of that life is a richly structured yearly pattern of life, in which various aspects of the Christian faith are singled out for particular attention during the course of a year. pp 374-375
“…a richly structured yearly pattern of life…” always gets me. i didn’t grow up in churches that gave much thought to “the christian year,” yet as an adult i realize now that i enjoy meaningful structure that encourages reflection and celebration of different aspects of christianity. as someone who’s days often look the same i have even come to look forward to and enjoy celebrating the four seasons of the year as a way to mentally work through the calendar and look forward to what’s ahead and ponder what happened over the past season or two.
but lent just isn’t happening this year. that boy up top with runny nose and dirty face and sneaky smiles is one half of the reason. sickness and life just happened at an inconvenient time this year.
advent has been a growing celebration in our home over the past few years and we’ve enjoyed it. but i refuse to be a slave to it and if it falls by the wayside for a year or two or looks different from one year to the next – no problem. the same with lent.
for a long time i had mixed feelings about lent. i knew some people that were so intense about the lenten period that i felt as though i needed to remind them that in fact christ has already come and died and risen again. but now that i look back i think some of these friends were missing out on a key aspect of traditional lenten practices. mcgrath puts it clearly:
An issue which needs to be noted at this point concerns the length of Lent. The period intervening between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day is actually 46 days. So how does this relate to the 40 days of fasting? The answer lies in the tradition, established at a very early stage in the development of Christianity, that every Sunday was to be regarded as a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. For this reason, fasting was forbidden on Sundays. pp 379-380
learning this a few years ago (that you break your fast each Sunday in recognition and celebration of Christ), edged me closer to wanting to celebrate lent. i think it is a beautiful picture and reminder of why you are fasting from some particular thing and who it is all really for. so here is to lent 2011 and the hopes that we will be able to celebrate it. for now, all of you who have given up chocolate or beer or wine or cheese or whatever, go crazy on the sundays of lent.