19 February 2012


Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.                    Matt 9:15

Ash Wednesday is February 22.  Here is a modified version of what I posted last year for Lent (with some additions)!  

Brief History 
Catechumens in the early Church usually were baptized into Christ on Easter Eve, and so they would prepare themselves by fasting and repenting while being taught the Faith.  Soul and body preparation also anticipated reception at the Lord's Table.  This preparation for Easter eventually was lengthened and broadened to include all Christians.

In the West, Easter's date is determined by the phases of the moon: It is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after March 21.  To determine Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, forty days are counted back from Easter, excluding Sundays.   (We often forget that each Sunday is a feast itself, a mini-Easter to celebrate Christ's victory over sin, death and the devil!)  The forty days is reminiscent of Jesus's forty days in the wilderness, Moses's forty days on Sinai, the forty days and nights of rain during the Great Flood, etc. 

The Church sets aside Lent as a time of repentance and preparation for remembering the Crucifixion and Resurrection.  Matthew 6:1-14 outlines the three traditional practices of Lent: alms, prayer, fasting, and is a good focus point for keeping our Lent evangelical, not legalistic.

Pastor Weedon over at Weedon's Blog on keeping our fast, prayers, and charity evangelical (emphasis mine):

The Gospels for these Sundays teach us that our salvation is a gift, not the result of our efforts; that it is accomplished by the power of God's Word; that by faith in our Jesus, we will go up to Jerusalem with Him, having our eyes opened to see that He is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  With this wonderful theological grounding, we also remember the wise words of Adolf Köberle:  "At all events even asceticism can be described by the paradoxical statement:  Its exercise can give salvation to no one but its neglect can corrupt anyone." 
So as not to fall into that corruption, the Lenten disciplines are set before us.  Not as though they are tools we ought use only during the Lenten days, but as training for all our days of battling the old man in the power of the Holy Spirit and with the joyful concurrence of the new man."

Remember that these suggestions are just that--suggestions--and not a checklist of what you should do. Pick and choose.  Also, take into consideration your particular situation.  I will not be fasting, since I'm pregnant nursing.  I also will strive to keep my meals simple (no elaborate seafood or vegetarian meals).  I would much rather fulfill my vocation by loving my children and husband than fulfill what the world would see as "Lenten duties."  Prepare for Easter with joy and reflection!

*Change the color on your family altar or Church Year bulletin board to purple, the color of Lent and repentance.  (Maybe you just have something small, like dining room table candles you can change as the church seasons change.  The point is a physical reminder around the house of what time of the church year we are in.)  

*Place a prayer book and small "collection plate" or bank for alms on the family altar, to remind all of the Lenten focus.  

*Begin a family devotional practice such as family lectionary reading (Treasury of Daily Prayer or the Daily Lectionary inside the Lutheran Service Book are wonderful resources to begin this), or simply family prayer time, if you don't already do that.  

*Learn a new prayer (my kids will learn the Morning Prayer, so far the hardest for us to fit into our routine). 

*Begin (or return to) self-examination and repentance of sins each night.  This is a great opportunity for your children to become familiar with with the liturgy of private Confession and Absolution.  

Have you taken your child to private Confession?  How old was he?  How does your church introduce this gift to the little ones?  I've heard some kids just go along with their parents for a while, but I don't know about that...  I'm eager to hear about your experiences or church's practices.

Learn an appropriate hymn and Bible verse(s) for Lent.  Ask your pastor what hymns your church will be learning or singing a lot.

* (Speaking of...) Start meeting your pastor for private confession  and absolution on a regular basis. (Perhaps when mom and dad go on a regular basis, the children will naturally (out of curiosity) desire to go, too.)

* Read  Meditations on Divine Mercy.

* Make a Jesus Tree

* Study a particular country whose Christians are under persecution.  Pray for those Christians every day

Practice hospitality.  Sundays feel more like the feasts they are during Lent than other times in the year.  Ask people in your congregation over for Sunday dinner, especially people you don't get a chance to talk to very often.  Ask neighbors over for dessert and coffee during the week.  

Give generously to those in need, both in your church and in your community.  Find out who is unemployed in your congregation.  Visit shut-ins (some may see no one from their church but their pastor for months).  A fond memory I have of my childhood is visiting a nursing home once a week, bringing little crafts or goody-bags.

Other ideas?  Please send pictures of your Lenten family altars!


  1. This is great! I have been thinking lately about what we will be doing for lent... I see lent as a great time for interrupting our "normal" habits, routines, etc, to refocus on Christ and what is important!

    As an aside.. we finally got the morning prayer down, in part because this fall I realized that I could sneak out of the house while the littles were in front of the TV and snuggle the big ones on the porch as they waited for a ride to school- perfect time for morning prayer! Now that it's cold we do it in the doorway and the littles have picked it up too!

    (I have a very hard time trying to do these things in a structured way.. if I can work them into our 'on the fly' routines, they are more likely to get done!)

  2. Thank you for the suggestions! Our family has recently become Lutheran and want to embrace all that it is. Sometimes it's hard to know exactly what that entails, but your blog (and others like it) has been really helpful! Blessings.
    ~ Julia

  3. Also, I noticed you requested pics of family altars. Is there any information on your site (I searched but couldn't find it) about the family altar? If not, are there any sites that you recommend? Thank you!

  4. Emily, structure pretty much only happens around meals and bedtime around here, so I keep attaching prayers and memory work to those events. Right now we try to pray Morning Prayer + "The eyes of all.." + Luther's Table Blessing + Come, Lord Jesus before breakfast. But my 2 year old can only wait so long before digging in!

    Julia, Welcome! I, too, am a convert. Praise God, all these Lutheran traditions and practices always point to Christ and his atonement for our sins. Always. Re: family altars, some families have a little spot in their house set aside for prayer, reading, and hymn-singing. Ours is on top of our piano, with a crucifix, candle, alms bowl, hymnal and prayer book. I try to keep seasonal flowers on it, too. At Christmas we put a creche on the altar, and at Easter an Empty Tomb scene. I have not written a whole entry on family altars, but there's a little blurb about them here:


    And here are some pictures of altars:




  5. Thank you so much! My husband has wanted to do this for a while, so he is very excited that I'm interested and on board. Yes, coming from American Evangelicalism, one tends to think of "traditions" as bad (as if A.E. wasn't full of its own). I'm very thankful to have ones with a firm history in the church rooted in, as you say, Christ and his atonement for our sins! I'll check out those links. Thanks for your help!