Cow Hollow Church News
The Episcopal Church of Saint Mary the Virgin
Lent and the Coming of Spring
The Very Rev. Dr. Donald Brown, Interim Rector
We’ve had quite a winter here in the Bay Area and all over California. After years of drought, at long last we’ve had plentiful rain in our area and an abundance of snow in the Sierra. As we move into the spring; change is in the air. The days are getting longer; skies are becoming bluer; and bulbs and seeds that have been lying dormant in the ground are bursting forth in all their glory, as are the flowering trees.
Beginning with Ash Wednesday on March 1, St. Mary’s and churches around the world begin the 40‐day season of Lent that runs until Holy Saturday. If you do the math, you’ll discover that the days add up to 46. The six Sundays during Lent are excluded because Sunday is always a feast day. The word “Lent” is a shortened form of an Old English word len(c)ten that means “spring season.” Just as spring is a time of the renewal of nature, in the Church it is set aside as a time of renewal, cultivating of positive habits, and personal growth.
Lent often brings to mind a negative image of giving up things like candy, meat, alcohol and activities like attending movies or plays. The idea is, at least temporarily, to adopt a lifestyle of personal deprivation that will make us miserable in order to come out on the other end of the 40 days a better and holier person. This approach takes some personal resolve and discipline, but I’ve observed over the last half century that such practices don’t make much difference in one’s spiritual life unless they continue all year around.
So what might make Lent a spiritually and personally productive period for you? I suggest you think about Lent metaphorically, as a time for weeding, planting, and cultivating. Just as every garden needs attention, our lives need pruning as well as nourishing and Lent provides us with that opportunity. Fasting is another term that is often associated with Lent. It would not hurt most of us to eat less, but I believe fasting has to do with much more than food. Fasting in Lent is a time for growth in holiness, love, generosity, and self‐discipline.
Holiness implies drawing closer to God. Love means seeking to live as Christ would have us live in the world. Generosity means sharing our gifts with an open and expansive heart. Self‐discipline means holding fast onto our resolve to rely on God’s power, love and amazing grace. St. Mary’s has several programs offered during Lent that will assist you during this 40‐day journey. I commend each of them to you and especially call your attention to the Wednesday evening program that meets at 6:00 p.m., and begins with a soup supper which is then followed with a program titled Living the Way of the Cross, From the Historical Jesus to the Cosmic Christ. May these 40 days be a time for each of us to embrace a springtime of the Spirit at work in our lives.