Lent, the Church’s annual pre-baptismal retreat
TREASURES FROM OUR TRADITION
Lent, the Church’s annual pre?baptismal retreat, prepares us to gather around the Easter font, renew our baptismal vows, and receive new life from the water as the elect are plunged into Christ’s death and resurrection. This core meaning is more or less available, depending on whether we journey with catechumens in the parish and on the vigor of our liturgical celebration of the Triduum. Some persist in seeing Lent as a lonely journey in the wilderness; yet this week we enter the Lenten fast in solidarity with one another. The smudged foreheads you will spy throughout Ash Wednesday on buses, street corners, and supermarket aisles remind you that you are hardly alone in your desire to enact a spring cleaning regime for your spiritual life.
Long ago, this kind of repentance was available to Christians only once. Ashes and sackcloth were not raiment for a day, but permanent habits for public sinners. Fasting became a way of life, and if they sinned severely again, there was no hope of restored communion. Happily, this system did not endure. It produced reluctant Christians who even held back from baptism, like St. Augustine did, out of fear. Today we have recovered an ancient tradition that conversion and repentance are constant themes on life’s journey, and that Lent is an annual opportunity to revive our baptismal identity, both as individuals and communities.
—Rev. James Field, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co.