by Michael Podrebarac
In the older liturgical calendar, this Sunday begins what is known as Septuagesima, a two-and-a-half week time of preparing for Lent.
While the calendar revisions following the Second Vatican Council did not retain this pre-Lenten period, Lent still begins in two-and-a-half weeks.
Are you ready?
We most often don’t think of getting “ready” for Lent, for, after all, Lent is the liturgical season during which we prepare for Easter, right?
Yes and no. Yes, Lent does prepare us for celebrating Easter. We spend some penitential time making sacrifices and praying so that we may be able to rise with Christ in his resurrection on Easter Sunday and during the Easter season.
In this sense, Lent is a lot like Advent, the season which provides us an opportunity to prepare to celebrate Christmas and welcome once again the Christ Child into our hearts.
But Advent also stands on its own, as it were, directing our minds to that time when Christ will return in glory. And Lent, like Advent, also stands on its own. We don’t keep Lent just so we can keep Easter. We observe the Lenten season so that we may direct our minds to being more like Christ.
And so I ask again: Are you ready?
Forty days is a long time, nearly six weeks. Lent is an opportunity to form new habits, habits which will carry us far past the 50 solemn days of commemorating Christ’s resurrection from the dead, if we let them.
What we accomplish this Lent should mean that when we get to next Lent, we won’t have to start from where we started this year. We should be a good 40 days beyond where we were the year before.
For some, Lent might be like a great marathon race, from ashes to the empty tomb, from death to life. Fair enough. All the more reason for us to take some time to prepare before beginning this race.
No one in a right state of mind would ever seriously think to run a race before training. To fail to do so would surely result in lots of pain and plenty of discouragement.
No one would ever want such physical frustration and torment. No one should ever want such frustration in the spiritual life, either.
How’s your prayer life? Your ability to deny yourself? Your concern for your neighbor?
The strong should plan to grow stronger. The less strong should know that now’s the perfect time to get moving forward.
The strong will want to limber up some in order to be able to try a higher level of discipleship than before. The less strong will want to warm up.
For those who feel completely out of Lenten shape, there’s no better time to begin than the present. Begin a daily conversation with God. Examine your conscience. Give up something and rework its place in your life so that, after Easter, things don’t just fall back into rest mode.
Call it Septuagesima — or call it simply getting ready for Lent. But prepare, for this race is one where everybody can truly be a winner!