Lent has Lentened . . . Eh, Arrived! (But What Does it Really Mean?)

19 Feb


Photo by doctor_bob on Morgue File.

As you know, yesterday was the beginning of Lent. I remember a former professor of mine, Dr. Calvin Miller, said he always loved the spirit of the Lenten season. Yet, he was never quite sure, early in his life, what lent actually meant. He said for a while there, he just assumed it had some deep and beautiful theological meaning to it.

Until one day, his curiosity got the better of him, and he decided to look it up. To his chagrin, he found it simply means spring. The term comes from Old and Middle English and carries the idea of a lengthening (as in days). That is to say, springtime is when the days begin to lengthen and the daylight is longer than the cold, dark winter months.

(For lent as the past tense and past participial form of lend . . . look elsewhere!)

Lent is celebrated for 40 days (excluding Sundays) and finds its terminus in Holy Saturday. It has been a few years since I have attended an Ash Wednesday service. As a baptist, we do not tend to observe it. I think it would be great if we did, we miss out on a lot of the cool things!

As Lent begins, it reminds us that the cold, dark days of winter will eventually come to an end. For most of the country (USA), winter is still very much alive and kicking at the moment! It is bitterly cold where I live and even worse in the northeastern region. It seems winter is making a bit of a mockery out of the whole Lent as spring thing!

As yet, winter’s icy, steely grip is firmly stretched around so many people’s necks. The wind of winter’s chill howls and mocks those who seek comfort and warmth. Virus and disease are borne along its crests. Ice and snow bluster with arctic glee against towns, homes and lives.

(Who ticked off Elsa this time!, I am tempted to ask?!!!)

Yet, Lent, with its inaugural day of Ash Wednesday, hints to the light and warmth of spring. It whispers of April showers and May flowers. It sings of scents, green grass and chirping, melodious birds. It seems so unreal at present, doesn’t it? So distant. .

Perhaps it is only a cruel prank. Perhaps it is a cosmic joke at our expense. A teasing to hold out the hope of spring, with its warmth and glee, as winter bares down with its unmitigated ferocity.

Yet, Lent signals the demise of winter. Its last fleeting clutches. Winter will die, Lent gleefully promises. Winter will end and all will warm and soak in the brilliance of a spring sun.

In many ways, is this not the exact picture of what Lent really means. I mean, at its core, Lent means far more to us than its semantic range. It means more to us, as Christ-followers, than its mere lexicon entry.

No, it speaks of life, life eternal through Jesus Christ. Though the cold, dark clutches of sin and night may hold sway over the world at present. Even though suffering and heartache abound to the torment of those who are so grieved and pained by its mortal effects. Still, if one listens closely, there is the constant, melodious whispered song of redemption; floating ever so fragilely it seems to our timid hearts; but, nevertheless, it cascades on−clearer and sharper, more ringing and piercing than ever before!

It whispers in our tired, wind-chapped ears, Spring is coming! Resurrection morn is coming!

And lights shine, though sometimes flickering in the arctic howl, but shine they do. Its beat is faint and soft, but as Resurrection morning approaches, the beat grows louder and stronger.

Just as Christ once walked on the storm-tossed sea to quiet the fears of his disciples, so he walks along the edge of our present darkness; atop the foul, bitter winds of sin’s winter. He walks in stride: confidently and with conquered pace.

Remember the darkness of crucifixion day gave way to the interminable silence of Saturday and a stone-covered tomb: but these, victoriously, were shattered, as an eternal atomic blast, with the angelic announcement, he is not here, for he has risen!

So tread on, Christ-follower. Turn to face the darkness of night and the bluster of winters cough, for he is risen! And you, my brother and sister, have been risen with him! And thus, you are alive forevermore!


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