"It is winter in Narnia," said Mr. Tumnus, "and has been for ever so long...always winter, but never Christmas." In the imaginative writing of Golden Halo 2011 winner C. S. Lewis, Narnia was in the grip of what seemed like an endlessly grim winter. It's not hard for us to grasp this image as the United States is largely covered with snow and filled with shivering people in the midst of a pandemic.
In the church, one would be forgiven for thinking it's always Lent and never Easter. Last year's Lent started pretty normally, but most churches closed to in-person worship before Holy Week. We started a Lenten journey that it may well seem we never finished. In the last year, we've been worn down by a pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Our normal patterns and beloved customs are disrupted.
One may wonder if we're in the grip of an endlessly grim Lent as we start anew our Lenten journey. After all, the previous Lent never seems to have ended. No matter how we celebrate Easter, or even if we skip it entirely, nothing can change the fact that the tomb was empty one morning long ago in ancient Jerusalem. We can't be sure what this year's Easter will look like. But we can be sure that Christians around the world will find ways to celebrate the triumph of Jesus Christ over evil, of love over sin, of life over death.
Jesus frees us from the grip of sin, and he certainly frees us from the grip of an endlessly grim Lenten journey.
At Lent Madness, we are fond of reminding people that Lent is not about misery, though it may sometimes be about fasting and self-denial. During the holy season of Lent, we "prepare with joy for the Paschal feast" as we turn our hearts and our lives toward Jesus. In that way, even in Lent, we are always suffused with joy.
This Ash Wednesday will be unlike any other. You may not even receive ashes. Fortunately, the real centerpiece of Ash Wednesday -- despite the name -- is not the mark of our mortality, but the invitation to a holy Lent, the litany of penitence, and the recitation of Psalm 51.
There are three verses of Psalm 51 that stand out to us as important this year as we contemplate the start of another Lenten journey.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence *
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again *
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
Today we step back from the usual silliness of Lent Madness to invite you to a holy Lent. Let us all pray that we might know the joy of God's saving help and the power of God's bountiful Spirit. By God's mighty grace, there is always Resurrection.
Wishing you a blessed Lenten journey,
Photo by flickr user Henna K.