Deans' Note February 20, 2022

The weeks leading up to Lent have traditionally formed a short season. Though used less frequently in our time, the Sundays have their own names based on an approximate number of days before Easter -- Septuagesima (70), Sexagesima (60), and Quinquigesima (50), or the third, second and last Sundays before Lent respectively. In more recent times, we simply number the weeks after Epiphany in sequential order.

Yet there is wisdom in keeping this mini-season of the Church year. Although the liturgy of these Sundays is simple, the theme of preparation for Lent can be a time in which we consider what spiritual practices we will engage in during the forty days leading up to Easter. There are lots of opportunities for study, prayer, and reflection when Lent begins.

On Sunday mornings during Lent our Christian Education program will both conclude our study of Luke's Gospel and then move into a four week study titled, "Why the Cross?" On Thursday evenings, Mother Lyn will lead a Zoom book study on Face to the Rising Sun: Reflections on Spirituals and Justice by Mark Bozzuti-Jones.

Of course there's also evening prayer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, opportunities to reflect on the Stations of the Cross. Of course the Sunday liturgies of Lent, each has its own focus and it should be standard practice for your spiritual life to attend the lenten liturgies every Sunday either in person or digitally if you aren't able to be there physically.

You may also think in these weeks leading up to Lent, as to what practices of fasting, almsgiving, and service you will engage in. We will again offer the opportunity for mite boxes to encourage prayerful offerings of money. But also ask other questions. To what am I inordinately attached that I could "give up" during Lent as a sign of your freedom in Christ? Fast from those things. Can I perform acts of kindness in a mindful way to serve others? Can I perform volunteer service in my community?

Whatever you decide as Lenten practices for your particular spiritual life, they should stretch you. Spiritual exercise is like physical exercise -- no pain no gain. So use these last two weeks before Lent -- Sexagesima Sunday is this weekend. Make a spiritual plan or a Lenten 'rule of life."

On the last Sunday before Lent, the participants in the Basic Christian Formation Program will be enrolled as they make a journey toward Easter. Part of the ceremony is an ancient symbol of placing salt on their tongues as a sign of thirsting for a renewed life in Christ. The experience of these people preparing to be baptized or confirmed is meant to help us all remember what this season is about -- renewing our life in Christ. Then on Shrove Tuesday, you will be prepared to join our St. John's community online as we experience the burning of the palms as a way of letting go of the dead wood in our lives, and the next day Ash Wednesday, together we will be ready to begin a Holy Lent.