Saturday, March 15, 2014

The historical development of Lent corresponded to the construction of a Christian culture and thus the redemption of cultural life. It formed part of the message that upon entering the faith, the individual entered into an alternative way of existing in the world in which time was understood differently. The patterns of one’s existence now corresponded to a new narrative about the history of the world as one of creation and redemption in and through Jesus Christ. This is the link between the fasting and prayer that catechumens engaged in prior to undergoing baptism, confirmation, and first Eucharist and the incorporation of those practices into a Lenten season as part of the movement toward Easter.

As a cultural practice, then, Lent concerns the ongoing mission of the churches. Sometimes pastors or priests will talk about Lent as part of an individual’s ongoing conversion, because the person enters a prolonged period of heightened spiritual awareness in which acts of repentance and acts of mercy form the preparation for Easter celebration. While this may personalize Lent, the global culture that it communicates relates more to cosmic salvation and the mission to bring all of life under the authority of Christ. It may be that the importance of Lent resides in its reminder of the continuing mission to transform culture by the creation of new cultural forms of life that attest to the arrival of a new race of people.

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