Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some Thoughts from a Friend on Lent:

(If you aren't a regular follower of this blog--and that would include most of you--you won't have any context for the well-thought--primarily because they aren't my thoughts--comments that follow. I wrote several short spots about Lent "from a guy who is more likely to have lint on his sweater than ashes on his forehead." These were sent out as daily Somethings to Think About, and can be found at I also posted some articles in an earlier entry on this blog.)

A friend who identifies himself as one of the "younger, thinking Christian[s] who is turning back to tradition," that I mentioned in one of the earlier article. I can tell you that he is a thouhtful person. LIke many young people, he is in a time of transition. His thoughts are worth considering.
While I have been enjoying your reflections, there is something lacking that I would like to comment on. There is very little discussion on the aspect of community in Lenten tradition, as well as other liturgical tradition. Is Lent Biblical? In the strictest sense, certainly not. However, it is a long standing church tradition that has been observed my many different theological traditions in the Church. It varies of course. I am giving up meat, so should I eat fish on Fridays? Or is Sunday a Sabbath from my fast where I can eat whatever meat I want? But you have covered all of that.

What I think is lacking in STTA is a reflection on the drawing into community that Lent and other traditions bring to traditions. There are certainly people who practice Lent in isolation. But I would argue that that lacks a fundamental understanding of liturgy. Tradition [liturgy] is necesarrily tied to community. It is its fundamental means of continuation. Tradition does not come about because individuals engage in a practice. It is passed from one person to another historically. That is how it becomes tradition. It is passed through community. This can be cross-applied to a contemporary community as well. An individual engages in tradition as a member of a community. Without a broader community engaging in the practice, there is no tradition. For Lent that broader community is the Church. (Hopefully, it is also a local church, such as mine, that is practicing aspects of liturgy together and being drawn together through that practice.)

So I guess what I am trying to say, is that community is at the heart of Lent, and tradition. That is what makes it beautiful. That is why it is important to me. In practicing Lent, I am being drawn in to Church tradition and taking part in a specific practice with others world-wide. I am also taking part in this with my local church community in a way so that we can engage in communal reflection and repentance. The individual sacrifice is important, but it's not a draw for me. I am far from an ascetic. But once you bring in the broader community, there is an aspect of 'should.' Not in a "I'm a better Christian because I don't eat meat for the next 40 days," kind of should. But in a "As a member of this community, you should join with us in practicing Lent, whether that means giving up chocolate, TV, or something else." So that's what I think about.

I would have to say that my young friend is right, not only specifically in regard to a missing element in this discussion, but more generally and profoundly, in that God never intended for Christianity to be a solo performance. While my assembly of believers is not one where we encourage one another to observe the Lenten Season, it is an assembly that nurtures me in pursuing a more Godly life. That is an aspect of Christian experience that I need more of, and I need to do more of.
So, thanks to my young, thinking, backward-looking (in a good sense) friend, for giving me something to think about.
By the way, as I get my heart ready for the somber observance of Christ's death and the joyful celebration of His resurrection, I'm planning to read through--using a Gospel Harmony--the life of Christ.

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