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Pastoral Letter - February 23, 2024

Lent: from Darkness to Light

 

Friday, February 23rd in the year of our Lord 2024, the first week of Lent.

 

What is Lent?   Simply put, it is a period of preparation and fasting prior to Easter.   Lent begins with Ash Wednesday (February 26, this year) and continues for forty days, until Easter Sunday (April 12).   It doesn’t take a math whiz to realize that there are actually forty-six days between Ash Wednesday and Easter.   Because Sundays are celebrations of the resurrection of our Lord, they are automatically considered days of joy and cannot be considered days of fasting.   For this reason, Sundays are referred to Sundays in Lent, not of Lent.

 

Fasting?   Well, that is an old tradition that dates back to Apostolic times, it commemorates the 40-day fast of Jesus after his baptism, at the start of his ministry, when he went into the desert and was tempted by Satan. 

 

In the early centuries fasting rules were strict, (and they still are in some Eastern churches).   One meal a day was allowed in the evening, and meat, fish, eggs, and butter were forbidden.   That is why we have Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival, etc.).   The idea is to use up all the eggs and fat in the house (butter, lard) so we have a pancake supper on the night prior Ash Wednesday.

 

Over the years, the rules for fasting have been relaxed, and really, only apply to Roman Catholics.   Many Christians (including Catholics) often choose to give up specific pleasures, such as sweets, alcohol, or social media during Lent as a way to foster simplicity and self-control;  many use their cravings or desires for these items as a reminder to pray and to refocus on spiritual matters.

 

In sum, use this time of year as a special opportunity to be grateful for what we have and be especially watchful against the cravings of envy, perhaps the deadliest of the seven deadly sins.

 

Meanwhile, it is spring in the neighborhood.  There are signs of it all over.  

It stays light until well after 6 pm now.   We have been blessed in this corner of California with a good amount of rain, but not too much.  

 

Lent and signs of spring mean that Easter cannot be far off and it will be early this year, on March 31.   Please be thinking about favorite Easter hymns and any other ways you would like to observe this most important holiday of the year.   And notice some signs of growth in our congregation.   We have a new member.   I took down one of the signs in front of the church because it was old and faded.   Public relations experts advise changing signs periodically anyway - they become invisible after a while.   Think of a new sign to put in its place.   Walk around back of Mahany Hall and admire the new bird feeder above the creek.  


And invite a friend to church.  

 

Awake, arise, lift up your voice,

Let Easter music swell;

Rejoice in Christ, again rejoice

And on his praises dwell.

 

Oh, with what gladness and surprise

the saints their Savior greet;

nor will they trust their ears and eyes

but by his hands and feet,

those hands of liberal love indeed

in infinite degree,

those free still free to move and bleed

for millions

and for me

 

- Christopher Smart



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