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Library at Ephesus

Pondering Lent During the Pandemic

Deborah Stollery

OK, so last year we began Lent with a nationwide lockdown and many of us likened it to a great fast…a wonderful coinciding of life with Lent.  Many of us entered that time period with this mindset, determined that it would “not be that bad” and that “some good things can happen.”

And then that Lenten practice lasted, and lasted…let up, returned…and is.still.with.us.  The longest Lent ever.  So long in fact, that we are about to enter it again…a liturgical Lenten season inside a global period of fasting and abstinence required by Covid19 mitigation protocols.

The prophet Joel says blow the trumpet!  Proclaim a fast.  Call an assembly.  Gather the elders and all the people.  OK—so maybe we can blow a trumpet …but we can’t gather everyone.  We are still largely fasting from that practice.  So how might we approach this Lent inside of a global period of fasting and abstinence?

Well, we can start by asking ourselves some questions:

  • What is my attitude about Lent this year, having lived a year of fasting and abstaining from all kinds of people, places, foods, and activities?
  • What do thoughts of another Lent evoke? Are you excited in a joyful way?  Anticipatory: anxious to discover what God has in store for you?  Reserved?  Uncertain about adding more denial to the limitations we are already living within?
  • Are you wondering how you will get through it again and if you are really open to allowing the Lord to draw you closer to Him?
  • What are you hoping for this Lent?

Then we might ask ourselves how the Church’s disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving fit into our pandemic lives.  Here are some of my thoughts around that question:

  • Prayer…what if I take this Lenten season and turn to the Lord with all my heart? What if I tell the Lord the truth about myself and then listen to the Lord respond?  What if I spend time just linking my heart to the Lord’s heart as my prayer? I mean, it’s not like I can’t find a few minutes to do this alone or with my loved ones, right?
  • Fasting…what if I fast from many of the voices I listen to each day through television, social media, print, and in my own head, replacing those voices with silence to listen to the voice of the Lord, and with the Lord’s voice in Scripture, Church teaching, desert Fathers, spiritual friendships? Turn off the TV.  Put down the phone.  Take off the earbuds.  Limit the magazines, podcasts, and music.  I know I find time and space when I’ve done this in the past…time and space for the Lord.
  • Almsgiving…what if I commit to giving from my heart “something” to everyone who asks: the person on the corner; my husband, wife or children; the charity whose cause I know matters; the friend who just needs a “minute”; the empty pantry in the local foodbank; the school looking for volunteers. Give “something” even if it’s a “No” offered kindly, with a prayer for their success or with an alternative you can give.  What if we just refuse to ignore what’s being asked of us?  What if we stop, look others in the eye, listen to them and hear the Lord calling us to bring His hope and healing to the world that touches us.  Mother Teresa suggested we do small things with great love…almsgiving in the pandemic.

One final thought…maybe a challenge.  What if we approach Lent with anticipation?  What if we are anxiously looking for what God has to say?  How we will encounter the Risen Lord?  What new creations will emerge from the fallow ground of a global pandemic?  What the Lord is creating within and around us?  How the earth and each of us are being healed in these uncertain times?  What if we see these next days as a great discovery and that three of the means of our discovery are prayer, fasting and almsgiving? 

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