G. K. Chesterton ~ Orthodoxy
Lent is a season filled with customs. Some are traditional to the Church, like omitting the word “Alleluia” and other triumphant phrases from the liturgy. Others are more personal, like abstaining from eating meat on Fridays. Though there are many customs in use throughout the Church, they share some characteristics that help us understand their meaning and, more importantly, their purpose to members of the Faith.
For example, many liturgically traditional churches cover the imagery in the chancel and nave with purple or black fabric. This custom originated in the early church when processional crosses were often adorned with fine jewels and gems. To expand on the austere nature of the season, those ornaments were covered to prevent parishioners from getting distracted by the beauty and value of those items.
Like many aspects of life in the church, all of these customs are symbols, meant to provide our imaginations with mental images that will guide our minds to meditate on the foundational truths of the Faith. They are meant as “toe holds” by which we might edify ourselves, climbing ever closer to the summit of the Gospel.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which Lenten customs you choose to engage over the next 40 days. Whether you choose some form of abstinence, or study, or begin to employ new techniques for spiritual reflection, the most important characteristic of your discipline must be grounded in an active engagement in the season. As I’ve said before, “the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.”
May we all make every effort to engage in a truly holy Lent, that we might fully experience the impoverishment of His Passion and fully rejoice in His Resurrection.
~Rev. Canon Aaron Zook
Ash Wednesday, 2018