Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

by the Rev. Lesley McCloghrie, Associate, Christ Church, Eureka

We have all been invited into the observance of a holy Lent. This invitation, which comes to us from the greater Church, provides us with a time of preparation, a time to prepare ourselves before we enter into the tumultuous events of Holy Week and Easter.

When I was younger, Lent used to fill me with dread. If asked to describe Lent, I would say, "it is long, dreary and dismal, filled with woe and all the music is slow and in minor keys." I remember wishing we could go straight from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday. As a young chorister, the only redeeming feature of Lent seemed to be the scripture cards we were given. These cards were printed with appropriate passages from the Bible, bordered with purple, deckled edging and decorated with crosses; it was considered quite an accomplishment to possess the entire set. A full set meant that you had been in church for all of the many Lenten services. Yes, it seemed to me then that Lent was to be endured rather than enjoyed.

But the truth is that in giving us the season of Lent, the Church gives us a precious gift and a wonderful opportunity. Where else would we find 40 days specially set-aside for us? Forty whole days is a long time. Yes, we have to go to work, tend our families, our homes and keep on with all those other everyday tasks, but the Church gives us this time, all forty days of it, free from major liturgical distractions. We are invited to the observance of a holy Lent, a time for self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and for reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. We are given this time to think seriously about our lives and in particular to examine our relationship with God.

During Lent we are constantly prodded, reminded and cajoled to take stock of ourselves, and to examine our relationship with God and with those around us. We are forced to remember exactly who and what we are, and are prompted to make preparations for the death and resurrection of our Savior, and to make preparations for our own death, the time when we too will look upon the face of God.

The name Lent comes from the old English ‘lencten’ meaning lengthening. During Lent we have lengthening days and spring, when the trees and fields are beginning to awaken from their winter’s sleep. As we stand at the beginning of the season of Lent, we too should be awakened from our sleep, our lethargy, for we stand at the beginning a pilgrimage which will take us to the Paschal celebration of new life and hope, and toward a better understanding of ourselves and of our relationship with God.

There are many different approaches to this pilgrimage and if you are like me, and I suspect that you are, you will have tried most if not all of them. Do you recognize these? There is the ‘giving up’ Lent when we try to tame our bodies and souls by a type of fasting- chocolate and ice cream seem to be favorites in this category. Sometimes we give up meat, or give up meat only on Friday and maybe Wednesdays. I know someone who ‘gave up’ criticizing her music director, given the amount of music that is prepared and sung during Lent and Holy Week, she found this quite challenging.

Then there is the ‘adding to’ Lent, where we add another form of prayer, of social outreach or alms giving. Often we add reading, daily devotions, meditation or perhaps attending extra worship services to our daily routine. Some of us may have spent a Lent or two trying to forgive ourselves or possibly someone else for an event, or a type of behavior that has impacted our lives in a negative way. I have a friend who regards Lent as ‘God’s diet’ and each year slims down to fit into her summer clothes. I’m surprised that the weight loss industry hasn’t jumped on this bandwagon. Just imagine the promotions; “Forty Days to a New You: Eat Cake on Sundays.”

The truth is, however we may approach it, a holy Lent should be our goal; a Lent where we shed our worldly baggage and accept that we are all sinners. A holy Lent where we face our sin and repent of it, a Lent where we accept the forgiveness of God, knowing that we cannot earn God’s forgiveness because it is always and forever freely given.

So why don’t we spend this simplifying our lives, clearing out the ‘stuff’ that clutters our minds and hearts; the ‘stuff’ that lies around and dulls the spirit? Through prayer and self-examination let us do some vigorous ‘Spring Cleaning of the Soul,’ clearing away the cobwebs of sin and despair and polishing up the windows of repentance and hope. So that when these forty days are over, we will come to stand before our God as we really are, naked and unashamed, awaiting the Resurrection, awaiting our resurrection, into a new life in Jesus Christ.


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