The Liturgy of Lent

Walking through the liturgical year is how we learn to live as disciples of Christ. The liturgical cycle is a powerful teaching tool in the Church’s toolbox. We follow in the footsteps of our Teacher and Lord every year and hit all of the milestones in His life and see how they relate to us as well.

The year is structured around the big moments in Jesus’s life and gives those moments context. The year helps us understand what Jesus did and why. At the same time, we can lose track of the fact that liturgical seasons, such as Lent, we’re not things Jesus experienced. At least not in the way we do or for the same reasons.

Jesus doesn’t walk around in purple in the weeks leading up to Easter and there’s no indication He stops using “alleluia” or holds off on hymns of praise. Quite the opposite in fact. Lent is not intended to remind us of a few weeks in Jesus’s life. Lent is there to remind us of the history of the world.

Ash Wednesday begins Lent and its focus on dust, ash, and repentance are all themes that don’t intersect Jesus’s life in the same way they do ours. Jesus has no need to repent or feel sorry for His sins. The purpose of Ash Wednesday is to remind us of where sin comes from and of the part we play in bringing it into the world. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” is the statement traditionally made with imposition of ashes. We recall the curse of Genesis 3, as God tells Adam and Eve they will return to the same dust they were created from.

This makes Lent a representation of the entire history of the world up until Easter. We relive the whole life of God’s people through the Old Testament and most of Christ’s own life as creation waits for its Savior. It should remind every time we pass through the Lenten cycle that God always keeps His promises. Perhaps not at the time or in the manner we think He should, but they do happen without fail. Easter was also promised in Genesis 3, and it arrived just as God foretold. Thus, Lent reminds us of the end, when God brings everything to fulfillment. As baptized children of God, we know the end is not in doubt. The only question is when it will come.

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