Navigating Lent’s Spiritual Landscape within the Parish

fr. michael white blog Feb 05, 2024

Lent, a sacred season in the liturgical calendar, spans 40 days filled with reflection and preparation leading up to Easter. This solemn period mirrors the biblical account of Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness, inviting believers to embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth through a more significant and sustained engagement in their faith.

As the liturgical year unfolds, Lent emerges as a distinct and revered chapter. It begins with Ash Wednesday, where the symbolic purpose of ashes serves as a reminder of mortality and the call to repentance.

Within the walls of the parish, Lent takes on a communal dimension, which fosters an environment where believers collectively embark on this profound spiritual journey. Each parish has various activities which help facilitate a deeper connection with the Lenten narrative.

Here’s the various activities we use at our own home parish, Church of the Nativity:

Worship

Worship finds its highest expression in each of the six Sundays of Lent at the Eucharist, each Sunday bringing an important message to shape our Lenten journey. The Eucharist in turn, should serve as the source of our worship throughout the week. A daily quiet time for scripture reading and reflection is essential and to this, at least for the season could be added the Rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic Adoration, even daily Mass. Check out Nativity's website for a complete schedule example.

 

Stations of the Cross

A notable and venerable form of worship during Lent comes in the Stations of the Cross. Piously retracing the Passion of the Lord, through scripture, spoken and sung prayer it can powerfully draw us into the mystery of Christ’s Cross. Anyone can recite the Stations anytime, but we will be offering them at Nativity on Fridays, with a very special presentation on Good Friday.

 

Fasting and Abstinence

Fasting, the abstinence from some or all food or drink for a set period of time, and abstinence, refraining from indulging in some specific food, drink, or activity, are most worthy Lenten practices.
As the whole parish commits to these practices for this 40-day period, they gain unity in shared sacrifice and discipline. This in turn underscores the communal nature of the Lenten experience.

 

Giving & Almsgiving

The foundational call of Christians to charity is a frequent theme of the Gospels and a special project of Lent. We are asked to focus more intently on “almsgiving” which means the provision of goods and services, works of mercy and charity, or financial support to the “poor” as they are present around us. Giving also includes our tithe or offering, our worship offering in our place of worship as an act of worship.

During Lent the faithful also have the opportunity to participate in the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries. The Appeal supports the work of Catholic Parishes, Catholic Charities, and Catholic Schools throughout the Archdiocese and is our annual opportunity to lend a helping hand to so much good and great work that goes on throughout the year.

 

Lenten Small Faith Sharing Groups

To further and powerfully underscore the communal nature of the season consider commitment to a small faith sharing group. Prayer, support, and scripture reflection and application, form the basis of a group experience. This collective power of prayer becomes a source of strength and solidarity, guiding believers through the challenges of the Lenten journey. This year we have made a big effort to get all of our parishioners into a group at least just for Lent and it’s never too late to get involved. Just check it out at Church of the Nativity.

 

The Sacrament of Penance

Or “confession” is central to the Lenten experience and holds a special place within the life of our parish community. The penitent moved to acknowledge sin and express contrition comes to know the grace of God’s mercy in a fresh way. It is renewing and uplifting and as such, should be undertaken sometime during Lent. At Nativity we are offering an expanded schedule for the availability of confession including, notably, all day long on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

 

Lent within the parish transcends routine observance, causing this season to be a dynamic and transformative journey. Don’t miss out!

 

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