I am writing this letter on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the beginning of our preparation for Holy Week. It is a season that has at its heart the need for self-examination, for an acknowledgement of all those things about ourselves that we seldom want to admit are there – even to ourselves. At one time, and still for many, this is a season of fasting, of self-denial, of finding a way in our everyday lives to put ourselves on the road with the one who denied himself everything, and called on us to take up our cross and follow.
There are other ways, of course. For some, Lent is not a time for stopping doing things, but a time to find new things to do – a time to pay more attention to the needs of those around us, a time to look for new ways to contribute to the good in the world. For some, and probably for some of us, there will be plenty of self-denial given to us, without us needing to go out and look for more; if illness denies us the life we have been accustomed to, if financial stringency stretches our circumstances, if hopes have been left unfulfilled, or reality has fallen short of expectation, we can find ourselves forced into a self-examination that needs no extra impetus from within.
In Lent, as in Advent, our newest pulpit fall (made for us, like the others, by the skilled hand of Hannah Paterson) is used. It is purple for mourning – but, like the season of Lent itself, the colour and the mourning will not last beyond its season. We journey through Lent, we do not set up camp there; we follow the path that Jesus walks, we do not sit down beside it. Lent has its destination: the week that we call holy, and the Friday that we call Good. They point us to the new life that makes the journey worth the travel, the way worth the want.
So let us travel Lent with faithfulness, observe Holy Week with thanksgiving, and gather together on Easter Sunday with joy.
Yours in Christ,