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THE ROAD TO EASTER: Lent a penitential season of preparation for Easter

March 2, 2018
By REV. DAVID OUSLEY - St. Eustace Episcopal Church , Lake Placid News

Lent is a season of 40 days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday.

The 40 days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Sundays in Lent are not counted in the 40 days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter" and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection. During the season of Lent, crosses are veiled with purple cloth and unveiled on Good Friday.

Lent is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others. Thinking about things we might give up, many of us are guilty of too much time on our smartphones, computers and TV. Lent is opportunity to fast or let go of things, to make time to be present with loved ones and even read a good book or two. The six weeks of Lent can also be an opportunity to replace a bad habit with a good habit.

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Rev. David Ousley
(Photo provided)

As for focusing on our relationship with God, attending worship and even inviting a friend to worship is a gift worth sharing. The letter to the Hebrews tells us, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another." (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

Lent ends with Holy Week which begins with Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday. On Palm Sunday Christian worshipers celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, which took place the week before his death and resurrection. For many Christian churches, Palm Sunday, often referred to as Passion Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, which concludes on Easter Sunday.

Maundy Thursday celebrates the last supper and in many Christian traditions includes as part of the Mass (Eucharist) foot washing. The powerful symbolism of foot washing is a sign of the humility of Christ and his expectation of service among us.

The Good Friday worship service does not include communion but in many churches, celebrate the liturgy of the Way of the Cross or the Stations of the Cross. The Way of the Cross is a meditative journey which Christ showed to us when he gave himself up on our behalf. The crosses that have been veiled during Lent are uncovered prior to the liturgy of the Way of the Cross.

After sunset on Holy Saturday the Easter Vigil service, represents the faithful awaiting the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his burial. In some congregations, this Vigil service is held before dawn on Easter Sunday. This service includes a ceremony of light and darkness, in which a paschal candle is lit to represent the resurrection of Christ; members of the congregation form a solemn procession to the alter. Holy Saturday is the last day of the Lenten season.

Easter Sunday is the joyous celebration of resurrection and rebirth of Jesus and mankind and is the sign of His glorious promises of eternal life for all who believe in Him.

(The Rev. David K. Ousley is the pastor of the St. Eustace Episcopal Church in Lake Placid.)



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