Lent is fast upon us and we will be learning as much as we can during this season but least we forget, Lent is what it is because Easter is what it is first. New Zealand priest, Rev. Bosco Peters says it this way about Easter:
Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost do not form three seasons. The Easter season celebrates the three dimensions of the resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Spirit. Ascension material is appropriately used as Ascension Day approaches. Pentecost material is appropriate from Ascension Day to the Day of Pentecost. Easter threads, of course, remain suitable up to and including the Day of Pentecost.
These fifty days, a seventh of the year, form our great “Sunday” of the year. “Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” forms the greeting in every service during Eastertide. Similarly “Alleluia! Alleluia!” is added to the Dismissal and the people’s response (these are equivalent to the “Alleluia” added at the beginning and end of the Daily Services). These help to give these celebrations a distinctive festal feel.
So if Easter is Sunday then Lent is by analogy Friday for some and/or Saturday for others: a time to get things done and to settle into one's rest and prayers so as to greet the next day’s “alleluias” full-throated and exuberant.
“to get things done” could mean that we use this season of Lent to add something to our spiritual practice, long walks instead of the simplistic deprivations that leave us craving chocolate or caffeine or alcohol all the more come Easter Day.
“to settle into one’s rest” could mean learning a new way to pray. Chatting with a friend about her Episcopal roots caused me to remember my first time ever praying by Episcopal order: “my first exposure to the Episcopal Church was '28 BCP Evening Prayer in Tappahannock, VA in 1970. I remember feeling like I was going back in time. I remember the pace and flow of the service was so different from my Baptist ‘prayer meetings.’" There was a space between the prayers and gestures that begged rest and settling.
“to greet the next day’s ‘alleluia’” could mean not only a joyous occasion of worship on Easter day but a thorough examination of our own lives so as to anchor our alleluias to those places we see God’s hand at work. Imagine our Easter alleluias like welcoming an old and well traveled friend into our homes.
“full-throated and exuberant” could mean that we have not only rested but have developed a practice of training and preparation like voice lessons and singing scales. The same reason that athletes train to jump farther and run faster. Our exuberance grows because of how we prepare and practice.
We need not deprive ourselves of much at all as long as we are learning. And we can stay focused, indeed we can enhance our focus, on the celebration that is to come in that day of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Lent is nearly Sabbath because Sunday is clearly Easter, alleluia!