My friend Karen mentioned that she worships in a tradition in which Lent is not observed. Her remark got me thinking about when and how I've encountered Lent.
In my childhood, almost devoid of religious content? I suppose not.
In the Catholic boarding school I attended in grades 7-9? It was most likely a big deal, wasn't it? But to me, it would have meant more layers of tedious Latin ritual, more possibilities for required chapel attendance, more opportunities for creatively disappearing from sight without jeopardizing attendance records. Truthfully, I don't remember a thing about it.
I don't think it was a feature in my Protestant boarding school life either.
When my husband and I began attending a Methodist church in our late 20s, Lent became a part of the year for us. It meant community in the form of weekly dinners and programs; it meant thematic seven-week sermon series; it meant the introduction of new music.
In my Presbyterian life, the liturgical year has gained radically in significance to me. Our preachers, for the most part, follow the lectionary; the paraments and stoles change colors with the seasons; and during Lent the Ash Wednesday and Tenebrae services are solemn and ethereal and, in the original sense of the word, awesome.
My life since my son died has been held together in part by the repetitious sequence of the church year (I think I'll write more about that later), marked by the disjunctions splattered about by grief. But still. Even though I no longer comprehend the words "ordinary time," I've been grateful for the anchor of the seasons.
Image: Lenten Textiles by Mary Ann Breisch, here