Dear Friends in Christ,
Life is filled with cycles, at every level of our living. In our personal lives, we often see things that seem to come around to a place where we have been before, and in our corporate life, we create cycles deliberately in our liturgical calendars and our rites. But each time we come round to a familiar place in our private or corporate lives, the experience is in fact different – sometimes in subtle ways, but sometimes dramatically. Each Christmas, we engage in our rituals at home and in Church. We have our family patterns of when to put up the tree, what to have for the big dinner, how we prepare for Santa, when we put out the yard lights. And yet, every year, it’s a least a little different. The presents change, we add new lights or ornaments, we try a roast instead of the usual turkey – whatever. Sometimes the changes are huge: someone who has always been with us no longer is – one of the kids got married and has their own home in which to celebrated and create their own traditions or, sadly, someone who was always with us now feasts at the Eternal Banquet, and not at our table.
We do, nonetheless, continue, at home and in Church, to maintain many of our rituals as life’s cycles come around again, and with good cause. There is, in healthy traditions, a sense of stability and a degree of certainty that helps give order to our lives. The Church lives that out in the liturgical calendar, in which we live into the story of our creation: our anticipation of the coming of Christ in Advent, of His Incarnation at Christmas, of His Epiphany to the whole of the world, of his earthly ministry, of His suffering and death in Lent, and of His resurrection on Easter Sun-day and the Great Fifty Days of Easter. The seasons remain the same, and many of our rituals carry over from year to year. Sometimes, we modify the practices a bit, and of course, the players change every year. There is a new “baby Jesus” each year in the Christmas Pageant, and little sheep and donkeys grow up to be shepherds or even Mary or Joseph. But the story, and the basic structure of the Liturgy, remain. Stability, certainty, continuity, comfort are all built into our rites.
This Lent, in the midst of time of a new transition, we will find in our practices those qualities. Lent is meant to be different than “business as usual” in our lives. It is a time of self-evaluation and reflection, both for each of us and for all of us together. In light of my coming resignation, Canon Michael Spear-Jones, who has been working with the parish leadership for three years now, will provide a Lenten program designed to help us further explore our parish life with a view to celebrating our strengths as a Household and how we might move forward into uncharted waters upon my departure. I hope each of you will make every effort to join us on the Wednesdays in Lent. Lent will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 18, and the programs will begin the following Wednesday and run until March 25, the last week before Holy Week. The Programs will follow a 6:00 p.m. Eucharist and pot-luck supper, and will begin at 7:15 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m. We will also make our Lenten liturgical experience distinctive with practices we have adopted over the years.
We will, of course, dress the altar in purple, in this instance as the color of penitence. We will begin the season with Ash Wednesday services at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., and then use the Great Litany on the First Sunday of Lent. We will not be using the Gloria in Excelsis, using instead the ancient Trisagion (the “three holies”). We will be using the pottery Eucharistic vessels, to remind us of the simplicity and humility of that Last Supper, and we will use a large, multi-piece host so that each person receives a broken piece of bread, to remind us of Jesus’ body broken on the cross for us and given to us in a perfect wholeness.
In these and other ways, we remind ourselves that Lent is meant to be “different,” so that we can respond to God’s call to us to make ourselves different – to find in the glory of the Resurrection that lies forty days down the road a glory in us – renewed, recreated – in the new Risen Life of Christ into which we are called. The simplicity of Lent makes that glory revealed at the Great Vigil, when the light literally overcomes the darkness, and then again on the Feast of the Resurrection, shine all the more brightly, when we burst out with the Gloria and other powerful music, when we bring out once again the silver vessels, when the Church is swathed in lilies and the people of God come in droves.
I encourage you, especially this year when we must seek God’s will all the more intently, to BE a part of Lent – to participate regularly in worship on Sundays and Wednesdays alike, to engage in the Lenten programs and explore that to which God is calling us as a Parish, and to prepare yourself with prayer and study for the coming of the Risen Christ at Eastertide. Those who observe Lent always experience Easter with more depth, more excitement, and a deeper Faith.
Come, be a part of this powerful presence and of an exciting future yet to unfold.
Yours in Christ’s Love,