What season you ask? It's not Christmas! (even though I went to my final holiday party only 2 weeks ago). No, it's Lent, and it snuck up on us early this year. So early, in fact, that due to St. Patty's Day conflicting with Holy Week, the Catholic Church has MOVED St. Patrick's Day up one day! I'm not kidding, read more about it at TVSnacks.
So I observe Lent pretty reverently, even though I'm not Catholic. This always gets me some questions this time of year as to why as a Protestant I take Lent so seriously. Well, I grew up in a Lutheran church that observes Lent (still does, according to my aunt, 2 services EACH Wednesday throughout Lent). But since I came to really have faith later in life, in my early 20s, it's not just my upbringing that led to my respect for this preparation for Easter.
Well, I don't like to preach and my faith is very personal, so I'll keep this brief. I really am overwhelmed at the thought that Jesus came here and went through so much, just for us. It's really quite a remarkable realization, and life-changing. So observing Lent, taking the time to think about Christ's sacrifice, and making a small sacrifice in my own life to remind me of His sacrifice, is very important to me.
This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. For me, this is one of the most powerful times to go to church for me, only preceded by Good Friday and Easter itself. This year I went to the St. Paul Cathedral. This is a beautiful building that I've driven and walked past many times, and run past numerous times, including 3 times during the different Twin Cities Marathons. Well, as anyone who has run past can attest, not only is it a wonderful sign that the marathon is nearly complete, it's also a gorgeous building. It's also beautiful inside too.
The service was very beautiful and reverent. While I disagree with many Catholic doctrines, I admire how serious and sincere their masses are. The best part at this Ash Wednesday mass was the homily. The priest explained the reason for Lent and what we should try to get out of Lent. He first used a baseball analogy (so naturally, that grabbed my attention). He said that Lent is like Spring Training. It's a time when you focus, recenter, and practice the fundamentals. It's all about developing good habits that can take you through the rest of the year. So much like batting practice in the spring can help Joe Mauer get hits later in the season, focusing on the Lord and His sacrifice during Lent can help us throughout the year.
The priest said that there are 3 aspects to observing Lent: Praying, Fasting, and Alms Giving. The fasting for me is what I give up for Lent. When I choose what I give up for Lent, I don't necessarily make it some big dramatic thing, rather, I make sure it's something that I'm going to notice everyday so that it reminds me of Jesus' sacrifice. And prayer and alms giving are important habits too that I practice during Lent to help me the rest of the year.
While Lent can be a solemn and sad time, we know that the joy of Easter is just around the corner!