Beginning on Ash Wednesday, the Church enters the season of Lent. This 40 day period of prayer and fasting, commemorates Our Lord’s own Fasting and Temptation in the Wilderness and prepares us for Easter through special devotions and discipline.
Christians and non-Christians alike are familiar with this season mainly through the tradition of “giving something up” during the 40 day period. Luxuries such as sweets, tobacco, and alcohol are favorite items to abstain from. But Lent is much more than merely depriving ourselves of a few treats. In its truest sense, this is a time of serious prayer, contemplation, and penance; a period to reflect on our bad habits (sin) and to purge those things that would further separate us from God.
In addition to throwing out the bad, we must put on the good. This means making frequent examinations of conscience, spiritual reading, acts of charity, and a deeper commitment to spiritual growth through our corporate worship and spiritual opportunities provided by the Church.
At St. Stephen’s, members are encouraged to attend the weekday Masses as they are able, Wednesday and Sunday Bible studies, Stations of the Cross each Friday, and use of the Sacrament of Penance, also known as confession. These “additions” are just as important as any material things we might sacrifice.
The Prayer Book also directs us to pray the following collect each day of Lent. Although it is intended to be used during the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, it can also be used as a daily family devotion at meal times or other family gatherings:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 124)