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Lent: Looking to Spring


In my corner of the Northern Hemisphere the days are lengthening. Forsythia and fruit trees around this high desert city have suddenly burst into bloom. Elm trees are temporarily, inordinately neon green, ripe with seeds about to be loosened and flung wide in a warm gust of wind. And it’s raining, raining….

The word “lent” comes from German lenz and Dutch lente, spring. The proper, Latin name for this liturgical season is quadragesima, fortieth. As in forty days before Easter. As in forty days of Jesus fasting and tempted in the wilderness. But our English name for this period is Lent, spring. 

It begins with the symbolic tracing of ashes across shiny, perspiring foreheads, reminding us of our inevitable end. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, ringing round and round and sooner or later falling down. It ends with Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Lent holds a mysterious paradox: that in the falling and dying there is healing, transformation, new life.

First winter, then spring. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). First the letting go, then the abundance.  

This truth-pattern—how life is always turning toward death, and death is always turning to life again—consistently brings me back to purpose and hope. Lent invites me to surrender, to relinquish my attachments and obsessions and in doing so find freedom. In losing my “life” I find Life (Matthew 16:25).  


Image by Joelle Chase


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