Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why Lent?

What is Lent and how should it be celebrated? Historically it is a time of preparation for the Easter Feast. Why should there be preparation leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus? Well of course every Sunday is a resurrection day, so we’re not pretending that the resurrection hasn’t occurred or anything like that. At the same time, in order to understand, celebrate, and praise the great wisdom of God, it is fitting to recall in a deeper way what God was doing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Spending 40 days contemplating the horror of sin and death and the many ways that we have failed and fall under the curse is all preparation for the joy of Easter. Celebrating Easter with no preparation is sort of like seeing the last five minutes of an amazing football game. If you just flipped the TV on and saw the last five minutes you might think that’s pretty neat, but what if you had been following the team for the entire season? What if they were the underdogs and all the odds seemed to be against them? (Sorry if you’re not into sports!) But the point is that remembering and meditating on the story that leads up to Easter is part of learning to celebrate the resurrection well. We want our Alleluias on Resurrection Sunday and throughout the season of Easter to be louder and more robust because we are simply bursting with thanksgiving for the grace and wisdom of our God.

6 comments:

Jason Farley said...

Would you say that mardi gras is the natural fruit of Lent?

Matt said...

Oh man, if you want to get into the deep work of following the team for the whole season, you need to get hip to the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete:

http://www.orthodox.net/greatlent/great-canon-fifth-week.html

Done right it involves 150 some odd prostrations and a full accounting of salvation history with a solid emphasis on oneself as the chief of sinners.

Quality stuff. Especially when coupled with fasting, which we know from Our Lord is the most powerful anti-demonic available to us.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

Jason,

Have you ever been to a mardi gras party? I haven't, but I hear they're a lot worse by reputation than in fact. You know, all the tourists go to the seedy parts, and miss that that's just one little block. My brother was at LSU last year and celebrated mardi gras in New Orleans, and he said "yeah, you just avoid Burbon St. kinda like the rest of the year."

And this LCMS pastor from New Orleans seems to really like the celebrations.

Also, it seems to me that what happens now when no one's Christian says as little about the thing itself as debauched holiday parties say about Christmas. And also, even if when most people were Christian there was debauchery, that's kinda what we should expect. Some people will take things seriously, some people will party and have a good time, and some people will look for any chance at debauchery. Today the last class tends to stay out of church. But if the whole society were Christian, they'd still exist.

Toby said...

Jason,

It does seem fitting to go into spiritual battle in the joy of a feast. So I'd give a qualified yes to your question.

And if you throw the party, I'll come down.

Rusty said...

If Lent is about service to the poor, in part,then would Mardi Gras be the last exclusive party before we have to love everyone?

Also, it's true that there are pretty benign Mardi Gras scenes. But that isn't the overall trajectory.

Rusty

Emily said...

Weighing in with an Orthodox perspective . . . we have two Sundays called "Meatfare" and "Cheesefare" when we bid farewell to these delicacies for the 40-day fast, and our tables are quite laden. It's definitely in the spirit of the fast to celebrate both going in and coming out! As far as drunken revelry, well, that's pretty much frowned upon any time of the year -- but that's kind of universal among the Christians I know.

Except for Toby and Jenny, of course.