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3 March 2019 | Vicar Writes

Observing Lent

By Terry Wong

Do join the Cathedral community to welcome Lent at the Ash Wednesday Service. Do note that it will start at 6.00 pm and this means that just for that day, you must plan to knock off work early. Our Bishop will be speaking on “Make Lent a Special Season”. Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence; from the middle ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross, as this is offered during the Service.

Lent may originally have followed Epiphany, just as Jesus’ sojourn in the wilderness followed immediately on his baptism. It soon became firmly attached to Easter, as the principal occasion for baptism and for the reconciliation of those who had been excluded from the Church’s fellowship for apostasy or serious faults. This history explains the characteristic notes of Lent – self-examination, penitence, self-denial, study, and preparation for Easter, to which almsgiving has traditionally been added.

Now is the healing
time decreed
For sins of heart
and word and deed,
When we in humble
Fear record the wrong that we have done the Lord.

Latin, before 12th century

As the candidates for baptism were

instructed in Christian faith, and as penitents prepared themselves, through fasting and penance, to be readmitted to communion, the whole Christian community was invited to join them in the process of study and repentance, the extension of which over forty days would remind them of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, being tested by Satan. This pattern continues in most churches even if some no longer prepare catechumens for baptism on Easter Day.

The calculation of the forty days has varied considerably in Christian history. It is now usual in the West to count them continuously to the end of Holy Week (not including Sundays), so beginning Lent on the sixth Wednesday before Easter, Ash Wednesday.

There are many devotional exercises which may be used in Lent and Holy Week outside the set liturgy. The various forms of fasting are encouraged. At the Cathedral, we run daily noontime prayers and do check the bulletin for the details. The lectionary Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer readings, found in our App are also useful to set the devotional tone for this period. The Bible Society released a Lent Devotional which you can purchase.

Online copies are also available. You can also watch out for special devotional exercises (i.e. silence, Stations of the Cross) which are run by our Prayer & Spirituality ministry.

As Holy Week approaches, the atmosphere of the season darkens; the readings begin to anticipate Christ’s suffering and death. On Holy Week, we have invited Dr Csilla Saysell from New Zealand to be our guest speaker in various events, including noontime talks. Check the bulletin for details. As always, we will be having our Maundy Thursday Service, two Good Friday Services and the usual Easter Services, including the special Dawn Service.

Lent devotion is not just about abstinence and simplicity, but it also includes doing good works. We should renew our commitment to live and bear witness to the Cross and Gospel. Continue to pray for your acquaintances, friends and family members. Pray for opportunities to have Gospel conversations. We remind ourselves that lent observation is not just about including some extra religious activities. It is about the whole of life.

Do have a blessed Lenten season.


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