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25 February 2024
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Lent - Springing Towards the Light!

We have arrived in the season of Lent - the preparation period leading to Easter. We had the unusual coincidence of St Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday colliding this year. This is very rare as it takes a lot of numbers to stack up together for this to happen. Ash Wednesday is determined by the date of Easter Sunday. The date of Easter Sunday occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox – 20/21 March. The first full moon after the equinox this year occurs on 25 March so that Easter Sunday occurs on 31 March. Ash Wednesday occurs six weeks before Holy Thursday.

Regarding Lent, the liturgical cycle of the Church year leans into the symbolism of the natural seasonal and chronological year. The Church year fits well with the northern hemisphere, and in total contrast in the southern hemisphere. Lent is a time of reaching for spiritual growth while in nature it is the time when bulbs push up through the ground, buds sprout on branches and birds prepare nests in readiness for new chicks.

The growth which occurs in nature is dependent on the right conditions being provided. Water logged ground, rocky terrain and hungry or distressed animals will have less ability to produce new life. All hinges on having the right and appropriate space. The season of Spring is rich with the flourishing hope of producing colour, fruit, energy and a great freshness. This time of the year is a start in nature repeating a natural cycle in an ever-new way.

In parallel, we spend Lent reaching towards the great light and hope of Easter (the great promise that we will have a home with God for eternity), a time by which new natural growth will be burgeoning with enhanced photosynthesis as daylight hours extend. Our own ability for greater activity will increase correspondingly as we will be less likely to spend evenings in our houses. There is a natural, new energy growing in these weeks and a greater alertness to spiritual awakening.

Lent is an opportunity to fast (do without what we don’t need), share with those in need, pray and reflect so that we, and all who inhabit the earth with us, may grow towards greater wholeness. It is an opportunity to consider how well we treat our own bodies so that we have best health, how we are with others and how we are with God. It is very much about realigning our lives to live our God-given potential more fully in good relationship with ourselves, others and God. The penance and repentance aspect is about making meaningful change by adjusting physical, spiritual and mental habits that hinder healthy spiritual, physical and mental growth.

To arrive ready for Easter we are called to
recognise blocks in relationship and seek to mend them
take an honest look at our lives to sweep away the grit and make space for new hope
take a look at what priorities drive our family lives and consider if a new order needs to be formed
treat the gift of the earth with greater respect as a fragile entity
grow in deeper respect and understanding for the diversity of people, cultures and nature
connect with our loving Creator God through prayer looking at our lives in the light of the Gospel

Cathy Burke,
Catechist to the Partnership Parishes of Lucan