Tuesday, February 10, 2015


The original Latin word for what we today know as Lent is Quadragesima which means “forty days before Easter.” The purpose was to prepare the disciple for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. The forty days is symbolic of the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert as he prepared for public ministry.

The original practices of Lent were prayer (discovery of God), fasting (discovery of self), and service (discovery of neighbor). Lent is about a tenth of the days of a year to discover who God is, who we are, and what the world is. We ask in one way or another what it means to be ourselves.

About one thousand years ago Quadragesima was changed to the secular word “spring.” The Germans know this as lenz and the Dutch know it as lente. Both words mean “lengthen” because in the northern climate the days of spring become longer and longer. We now call it Lent.

As Quadragesima became Lent, the practices changed as well. The true meaning of Lent is now hidden in the hustle of fish frys and the Easter Bunny. Today we give up chocolate or alcohol or Facebook or eating most meat on Fridays. None of these things is necessarily bad, but do they really help us discover who God is, who we are, and what the world is?

If you were bet everything you have on whether God exists or not, which side would you choose and why?

When you look in the mirror, what is it you like the most and what is it you want to change the most?

Consider your history: What are two moments you wish you could do over? One because it was painful for you or somebody you love and you want a do-over. The other because you simply want to relive the happiness of the moment.

If you had forty days to live, what would you do with them?

If you had forty years to live, what would you do with them?

Does a person or a cause exist that you would be willing to die for?

If you could write a message in a couple dozen words to a handful of people, what would you say and who would you say it to?

Responding to questions like this gives us a glimpse of who we are becoming and just as importantly who we are not becoming. It’s tough work and can be challenging. It’s also worth it. 

Lent begins with the imposition of ashes and ends with the resurrection of the dead—which is what life is all about. 

Read through the Gospel of Matthew. Ask yourself some of the above questions. Pray. Serve somebody you love. Pray some more. Serve a stranger. Worship weekly. Deprive yourself of something you really desire, but don’t need. Give. Share. Rest. Grow closer to God. Discover yourself. That’s Quadragesima.

The best is yet to come…


See Frederick's Buechner's thoughts on Lent from Whistling in the Dark
Also C.S. Lewis and Henri J.M. Nouwen's: A Wonderous Love

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