Lent has a lot in common with spring training/boot camp when you have to give up some things of lesser importance to focus on a higher end. Just as the sports pros take some time to hone their skills and get in shape for a physically grueling season so do we religious people on lent to win the never-ending battle against the devil and evangelize sinful environment.
We started these forty days marked with ashes on our foreheads symbolizing penance for our sins. In the church, the sanctuary is stripped of its usual festive decorations. Purple is evidently prominent in the altar, in the cloth draped on the cross and in the vestments worn by the priest, as well, that is, to emphasize a somber atmosphere. In the liturgy, the Alleluia is omitted and Gloria is dropped. The songs are as much as possible not joyous and musical instruments mildly used. We’ll try chanting It’s plain dry and that’s exactly what the season tries to convey. Forty days of spiritual and religious preparation highlighting various Catholic traditions (stations of the cross, penance service, fish n fry in St. James friday only, giving out Lenten offering boxes as an outreach ministry, fasting and abstinence, and giving up something hard to do as a form of self-denial) meant to grow in spirit and draw us closer into the mystery of redemption. My professor in spirituality (can’t remember who it was) used to say, there is no Christianity without asceticism.
For some, lent seems dreadful by taking a heavy toll in our packed schedule (juggling between work, school, family, extra-curricular activities, and church). But, this period of self scrutiny, examination of conscience and a time for personal transformation is obviously for our benefit. It’s like overhaul, annual spiritual check up, removing the clutter and picking up the scattered pieces, a perfect time to journey within, to the inner self and meet God that speaks beyond the silence. Amen.