There was a time long long ago when Lent, the 40 day period before Easter, was a special season of dramatic change. On the Tuesday before Lent, in homes around the land, families all ate pancakes for supper. That was because they had to use up their eggs and milk for the upcoming fast from meat and dairy. After dinner, most people gathered in the square for some final worldly merriment (Mardi Gras) and then the villagers and the city dwellers went home sober in the sense of the approaching Lenten season. Like preparing for an international journey, the mental transition from normal life to Lenten life came in small steps towards the boat.
Twenty-first century men, women and children love to leave their normal existences for another. Children go to Sesame Street and fairyland; adults drink wine and whiskey, watch movies and read good books. Some adults prefer the other places so much that they become addicted to whatever will take them there. The line between here and there becomes very blurry and they like it that way.
Lent is a season wherein a person can place him or herself in a very different world too by fasting from certain foods and from other aspects of the normal life. Instead of adding to escape the world one does a lot of subtracting. Within the void that is created, contact can be made with the Holy Spirit of God. The time not spent eating and watching is spent listening to prayers, chants at church, listening for God to speak to the heart; reading the writings of very holy people in history and just resting in that peaceful void.
That void is the wide and empty beach described in To Borrow Lent. It is a very special place that a person can easily create for him or herself. And it is a place where spiritual jewels are found. After a person has experienced Lent the way it used to be, the way the Church intended it to be, (s)he will want to go back there. That person is sorry that the Lenten experience cannot happen at other times of the year. No matter how hard one tries to replicate Lent though, it can’t be replicated. This is why, when the Lenten season arrives, it presents a unique opportunity to experience an extraordinary world without the aid of intoxicants, literature or film. Lent offers a most interactive and fruitful escape from our world. Plenty has been written on the subject, find and read.
Eastern and Western Christians calculate the time of Easter differently. This year, 2008, Western Easter arrives on March 23rd and Eastern Easter arrives on April 27th. Even though Western Easter is fast approaching, the good news is that Lent has just begun for the East. For more information about how to observe Lent for maximum jewel finding, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.