Life and career[ edit ] —
Preparing for Lent "The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting The Book of Common Prayer,pp.
By the middle of the fifth century, the Church had taken a similar approach to preparing for Advent, then known as "St. Since Lent is itself a season of preparation, it may seem like overkill to have to prepare for Lent.
Yet, how will we take full advantage of the opportunity of Lent if we wait until the last minute to decide how to keep it?
Both the Eastern and Western Churches have long traditions of a pre-Lenten season that is designed to set the stage for keeping a productive and holy Lent.
In the West, for many centuries we observed Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, a kind Thematic essay on the new deal liturgical count-down of the Sundays nearest the 70, 60, and 50 day marks before Easter, with the actual 40 days of Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday, 40 days before the Feast.
We hasten to point out that we do not believe that the elimination of the formal pre-Lenten season in the West has been a bad thing in itself.
It has allowed the reshaping of Epiphanytide as a more intentionally focused season. This is particularly evident in the Book of Common Prayer and in the Revised Common Lectionary in America, where the season is clearly defined at its beginning and end with the major manifestations of our Lord, the Visit of the Magi on Epiphany and the Baptism of our Lord on the First Sunday, and the Transfiguration on the Last Sunday.
Not only does this give Epihanytide a greater integrity as a season in itself, it provides a clearer line of thematic material in the larger movement from Christmas to Easter, with the Transfiguration serving as the turning point, both temporally and theologically, from the Christmas cycle to the Paschal cycle.
Nevertheless, all of this leaves us with a major bump in the road from the point of view of personal devotion. With the celebration of the Transfiguration on the Last Sunday after Epiphany, the faithful are raised to the rarified height of Tabor, and then, just three days later, on Ash Wednesday, they are plunged into sackcloth and ashes.
It may be that this transition is too sudden. And it is certainly the case that it fails to provide any formal or liturgical impetus to have a Lenten rule in place and ready to go on the very first day of Lent. Lent is sometimes referred to as a pilgrimage or a journey.
Very few people set out on any kind of journey without packing a bag. What are the things that we need to include in our Lenten luggage? The invitation to the observance of a holy Lent in the Prayer Book provides a packing list.
The list may not be exhaustive, but it is a good start: Another way of describing this luggage is to call it a rule of life. Many Christians have a formal rule of life which they observe throughout the year. Their Lenten rule will usually add a few seasonal exercises.
For those who do not already have a formal, year-round rule, Lent is a good opportunity to begin one.
The purpose of a rule of life is not to set impossibly high standards that might be admirable but are not practical. A rule of life must fit the person. A new Christian or someone new to the whole idea of a rule of life will have a more modest rule than an older, more proficient Christian.
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