A Lenten Pastoral Letter from the Rector

The roots of Lent in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, and in the sacraments of the Gospel; the setting of Lent in the noble structure of the Christian calendar of worship and devotion; the demand of the Lenten message on our life and death -- these are great and mysterious themes that Lent forces on our attention.  Fr Eugene Fairweather

Fr Fairweather wrote these words in 1962 in his book The Meaning and Message of Lent, which is our Lenten study book this year. Lent does, or at least ought to, force our attention. It has a different vibe, a different feel. Purple becomes our liturgical colour, we don't utter the word "Alleluia", and the readings and the prayers and the music all draw us deeper into our spiritual lives, as a kind of "spring cleaning" before we open up to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Indeed, the word "Lent" comes from an Old English word for "spring".)

At the liturgies of Ash Wednesday (March 6th) we will all be invited "to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and by reading and meditating on the word of God." In these last days before Lent begins, may I invite you join me in contemplating what the shape of your own Lent might be, and how our parish life at SMM might be part of it.

On the eve of Ash Wednesday (Shrove Tuesday) we have the last great feast, a pancake supper (which begins at 5.35 pm). Prior to supper the last mass before Lent is celebrated upstairs at 5.00. At the end of supper we are invited to go outside and burn last year's palms, that they might be transformed into ashes for the next day.

On Ash Wednesday, mass will be celebrated at 7.15 and 10.00 am (said) and at 6.15 pm (solemn). At each mass ashes will be imposed on our foreheads to remind us of our own mortality and ultimate reliance on God. I will also spend time at 12.30 pm offering "Ashes to Go" at the corner of College and Euclid; please consider joining me.

And then Lent continues. In addition to our regular round of daily masses, the Stations of the Cross are walked every Friday night at 7.00 pm. This quiet and meditative observance (which lasts about 45 minutes) invites us to journey with Jesus to the Cross.

And, as we move through Lent, we are invited to read Fr Fairweather's book. A group is meeting each Wednesday from 11.00 am to 12.00 noon (following the 10.00 mass) to discuss the book. (The session on Wednesday evenings has been cancelled owing to lack of participants, but if there are a few who wish to pick up the study, please let me know and we shall!) Even if you aren't able to participate in a study, please consider picking up a copy of the book from me or the office and reading along with us.

What might your Lent look like? Might you consider adding a daily mass or the Stations of the Cross to your weeky routine? Or making a particular commitment to attend on Sundays? Or to provide additional alms (money) to SMM  (be on the look out for a special invitation from the wardens) or another charity? Or pursuing spiritual conversation or the sacrament of confession with one of the clergy (all you need to do is ask for our time)? Or refraining from a meal, or some food or drink, particularly on Fridays? These are just some of the ways in which we are invited to consider how to mark this holy season, how to allow our attention to be grabbed by it. So that, when Holy Week and Easter arrives, our minds and bodies and souls are made the more ready to celebrate the joyful mysteries of our new birth in Christ.

May we have a holy Lent.