Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A Joyful Lent!

To Catholics of a certain age, ‘a joyful Lent’ may seem like a contradiction in terms. What was Lent for? Well, for ‘giving things up’, chiefly, in the popular imagination. And quite apart from our own private little acts of self-denial (typically, biscuits, booze or chocolate) the liturgy shot past sober to positively sombre: out with Gloria and Alleluia alike; in with the rather dismal purples and mauves used for Lenten vestments and altar hangings.

But, if you happen to be fluent in Anglo-Saxon, you’ll remember that the root meaning of the word, ‘Lent’, is ‘Springtime’. The sap rises, March hares go mad. Birds and bees begin to do what birds and bees do. Optimism and chocolate (eggs and bunnies, not hares) impose themselves, despite our best intentions.

More importantly, Christian joy bursts through before the first daffodils. As Pope Francis reminds us at the beginning of his letter on ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ (Evangelii Gaudium n.1): “With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” Constantly, because Christ is constantly present, constantly forgiving, constantly “restoring our joy” (EvG n.3) so we can begin our journey again.

It is that joyful beginning again which Lent is about. So don’t focus on what you’re going to give up or what penitential practices you’re going to take on this Lent. Decide what song you’re going to sing on your 40 day journey. And make sure it’s a joyful one, because if it isn’t, no one else will want to listen to you.

By Fr. Rob Esdaile, parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, Thames Ditton

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