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Lent 2019

The early Church used to hold baptisms on the most important celebration in the Christian year - Easter Day. Candidates were given a course of preparation so that they could understand the Christian faith. The climax of this was when they fasted for 40 days before Easter, imitating the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness before beginning his ministry. To abstain from excess and devote themselves to prayer had an improving effect on them. Other Christians soon clamoured to be able to do the same. So begun the celebration of Lent.

The colour used in vestments and on the altar is purple. Some churches use unbleached linen to represent the sackcloth which formed the usual clothing of people who were repentant. Sackcloth and ashes gives its name to Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent when it is traditional to receive the mark of a cross of ashes on your forehead. The congregation is invited ‘to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.’
It is if you like, a bit of spiritual gardening. It is easy to neglect the soul when faced with all the temptations of the modern world. Many people give up for a while something which they like eating or doing. This might be from Monday to Saturday every week in Lent or for the whole of the 40 days. Jesus told us not let anyone know we are fasting. We deny ourselves in this way to help us resist the big temptations in life. The person who cannot resist a little temptation will be vulnerable to the larger ones which come along. These might be life changing and addictive. We don’t deny that pleasure is good but we want to be sure that we can keep it under control.

Lent is the time when we journey into our inner thoughts and actions to reflect on our relationship to God. It just takes a little self-discipline to make a special effort.

Mark Binney