New And Contrite Hearts

“The season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness and restored to the fellowship of the Church.” 

These two strands give us some understanding of the purpose and history of Lent. They are found on pages 264 and 265 of the 1979 prayer book. The celebrant also reminds the people, “I invite you, therefore in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word."

Now you might say to yourself, “I am already baptized and I certainly haven’t been separated from the Church because of notorious sins.” True, but you are a sinner, notorious or otherwise. ou do things which cause you to fall short of the glory of God. Therefore, self-examination of conscience is always helpful. Repentance isn’t done only once. As St. Benedict said, we undergo continual conversion experiences. 

Will you not renew your Baptism Vows at the Easter Vigil? Will you not promise “to support these persons in their life in Christ” for those who are receiving the sacrament of Baptism? We are all in this together. We not only support our brothers and sisters in Christ but we encourage them to lead holy and devout lives. You would not be taking the time to read Forward in Christ nor this article if you didn’t want to grow in your relationship with Christ. This, of course, raises a simple question: How do we grow?

Most of us exercise. We do it at first because we know, or are at least told, that it is good for us. So three mornings a week, to begin with, we may jog for twenty minutes. After a while we discover that, if we miss a run, our day just doesn’t seem right. We don’t have the energy or the concentration that we had on those days we did run. There may come a time when we decide to try a 10K run. A month or so before the run, we would probably start training. We might run more often and go further so that by the time of the run we would be able to run the 10K. Some days during our training we will do sprints hoping that we can increase our speed. We may intentionally watch what we eat and drink so that we carry less weight during the race. 

Before one begins training for an event, it is sensible to speak with those who have done it before and listen to the best advice on how to proceed. One might write down the plan to follow for those six weeks, making it easy to keep a record of what has been done each day. Later, a person might review that record to see if there are ways in which they could improve their performance.

Lent is a similar activity. Those of us who are observant Christians are already spiritual joggers. We go to mass once a week. We may say family prayers every day and read a daily devotional book. These are our normal spiritual exercises. But Lent is the time we are preparing for “the race”. 

We may add some prayers to our morning devotions. We may also attend the Eucharist on a week day. Or we may go to the Lenten program every Friday night. We may forego our daily visit to Starbucks and give the money we saved to the Rector’s Discretionary Fund. We consider (self-examination) those things we do which keep us running, and from running, the race towards Christ. Those things (sins) which burden us and slow us down, we deal with through confession. 

One of the joys of running a race or even training with others is that we aren’t doing it alone. We are less likely to become discouraged and give up. Others encourage us and we encourage them to give their best. When we stand up at the Easter Vigil and promise God that we will support the newly baptized, we are also promising to keep supporting each other in the Faith. 

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.