Instead of gloomy and repulsive, Lent can be transformed into a season of joy.
Nineteenth-century writer Frederick Charles Woodhouse perfectly summarizes the prevailing mood of Lent in his Manual for Lent.
There is a shadowy gloom that broods over the whole season, partly the darkness that for those three hours, and ever since, hangs about the Cross; partly the solitary darkness that all penitents instinctively seek, as they hide themselves from the world’s eyes, and all alone gaze down into the forbidding secret places of their own hearts.
It is often a painful season of sacrifice, and for this reason, “The season of Lent is to many more or less repulsive and unwelcome.”
However, does Lent have to be such a burden?
First of all, Lent is meant to be a season of spiritual renewal and freedom. It presents a special opportunity to rid ourselves all that prevents us from an intimate relationship with God, so that we can experience the peace and freedom of a child of God.
This is one reason why Lent is embraced by many people, as they look forward to the chance to start fresh and renew their commitment to Jesus Christ.
Secondly, while Lent does involve much sacrifice and penance, we are invited to approach the crosses we carry with joy, in imitation of Jesus and the many saints who have gone before us. They did not focus on the sufferings they would endure, but on the joy to be experienced in Heaven.
Woodhouse explains how the cross is indeed painful, but nothing compared to the joy we will experience in Heaven.
The Cross is always painful. The repugnance that Lent arouses within us is but human nature shrinking from the Cross … What is said to have sustained [Jesus] even when human nature cried out at the terrible prospect and under the more intolerable reality? It was the joy of the end; “for the joy that was set before Him” … It is this that has made many a martyr’s heart calm and joyous when the people’s cry rose like thunder or the sound of many waters, “The Christians to the lions!” and taught them to forgive, and even love and bless their persecutors, who were the agents to bring them to “the joy set before them.”
It is not always easy to see the good in suffering, but when we have a proper perspective, we can look forward to depriving ourselves of a little temporal happiness in order to attain a much greater happiness that endures.
Let us look at our sins as so many obstacles and barriers in the way of our happiness; and shall we not hasten to embrace all means that may do away with them, and fit our souls to be with God … Let us pray ever and strive after this faith of God’s saints, so will Lent be to us no more dull and repulsive, but wholesome, welcome, fruitful of peace and joy.
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