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Wednesday, March 01, 2017
Lent – Finding Balance by Eleanor Shepherd
Today is Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent. It seems
unusual that Ash Wednesday would also fall on the first day of the month.As we begin a new month, we also begin a
unique time of waiting and of preparation. Lent is a 40 day period when
Christians can devote themselves to reflection, prayer and fasting in
preparation for Easter.
this day includes the ancient custom of applying ashes to the forehead as a
symbol of their faith and penance. The ashes come from the burning of the palm
fronds that were used on Palm Sunday the previous year. This time of penance
and fasting comes from an ancient Jewish tradition, a way that God’s people
chose to show their repentance and recognition of their unworthiness to live in
God’s holy presence.
interesting to note the drive for balance and equilibrium in our journey of
faith. Times of reflection leading to sorrow and penance are followed by times
of rejoicing and celebration. The major celebrations of the Christian year,
Christmas and Easter are preceded by seasons of reflection and waiting, Advent
and Lent. These times permit us the opportunity to reflect about and prepare
ourselves for these celebrations. They provide opportunities to put our
spiritual houses in order.
efforts to do this are quite rudimentary. Each year I choose to give up coffee
for Lent. That does not seem like any great spiritual act, but when our bodies
have become addicted to the high produced by something we enjoy, to forego that
particular thing creates some discomfort. My husband always teases me about
giving up my coffee, although he also respects my tenacity, as he tried it once
and could not persist.
He says that on Easter Sunday morning, my joy is as much
about the end of my self-denial of coffee as it is a celebration of the
Resurrection. While I deny that is the case, I am also aware that there is some
truth in what he says.
lived long enough to realize that it is always difficult for us to have pure
motives about the things we do. However, I also know that what is important is
being intentional in the choices we make. I want to be sincere in my spiritual
practices and not just do things for show or to try to impress other people or
even myself. How can I do that? Advent and Lent provide a way.
I can discipline myself in a small way by giving up my coffee to create some
space in my life for penance – to be honest with myself and look at my true
motives. Recently I have undertaken a commitment to follow the Ignatian
spiritual disciplines and I am becoming aware that I can only make significant
changes in my life when I acknowledge where I am today and what my shortcomings
are. Then I can explore how to forsake these and make better choices as the
light of God’s grace reveals the new possibilities that emerge. Applying this
to Lent means that when Easter comes, I will be ready to celebrate the
re-creation of new life that God has been doing in me. Observing Lent helps me
to become more genuine in the practice of my faith.
Word Guild Award 2011
Word Guild Award 2009
Eleanor Shepherd from
Pointe Claire, Quebec has more than 90 articles published in Canada, France,
the U.S.A., Belgium, Switzerland and New Zealand. Thirty years with The
Salvation Army in Canada and France including ministry in Africa, Europe, Haiti
and the Caribbean furnished material for her Award winning book, More
Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening. Eleanor works as a pastor
in Montreal with The Salvaton Army.