By Pat Jenkins
Many Christians in south Pierce County are joining with millions nationwide who are preparing for Easter by observing Lent, which a Graham church leader describes as an opportunity to reflect on and simplify their lives and enrich the lives of others.
The 40 days of Lent began in March with Ash Wednesday and continues through most of April in preparation for Easter, which is this Sunday.
“Lent is our season of reflection and renewal by more intentionally imitating the life of Jesus – his 40-days journey in the desert,” said Fr. Matthew O’Leary of Holy Disciples Catholic Church.”We follow Jesus and early Christians by engaging in the ancient practices of fasting, almsgiving, and extra prayer.”
Not all Christian churches observe Lent. Those that do include the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations. Eastern Orthodox churches observe Lent during the six weeks preceding Palm Sunday, which was April 13.
The annual Lent observance is in the final week, or Holy Week. During this week of religious holidays, Lutherans are focusing on the final days of Christ’s life, remembering his resurrection. For instance, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Graham is holding services tomorrow (Maunday Thursday) and on Good Friday leading up to Easter Sunday. St. Paul also hosted special Lenten services the evenings of April 2 and April 9, inviting worshippers to share a supper of soup and “the good news of Jesus Christ,” a church spokeswoman said.
Focused or extended prayer is central to the season. O’Leary, who heads Holy Disciples in Graham and also is pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Eatonville, said prayer “lifts our hearts and minds to God.”
Lent is a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. Individuals are to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ’s suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.
O’Leary, writing on Holy Disciples’ web site, said fasting calls for eating one full meal and two small meals on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday (April 18) and another day of the week, “and taking only what we need in terms of food, money and other resources.” Hence the oft-heard expression “giving up for Lent.”
Almsgiving, O’Leary said, “provides help to our brothers and sisters in need, reminds us of our duties to others, and helps us appreciate the blessings we have.”
Lent, he said, “is a perfect time” to spread life, love and hope.