Greetings from Castlerigg! The weather today is getting us all excited for spring, soon the trees will be full of leaves and we might even be able to wear something other than jumpers!
This week, we wanted to write about the current Church season: Lent!
During Lent, we as Christians are called to focus on three different things: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These are meant to prepare our hearts to celebrate Holy Week and Easter. In popular culture, we usually associate Lent with ‘giving something up’. This comes from the Christian idea of fasting during Lent. This can be good, but the intention of it isn’t just to lose weight! We do these things to have a bit of a spiritual ‘spring clean’, to de-clutter our lives a little and have a renewed heart ready for the high moment of Easter. Similarly, we can ‘take something up’, something linked to prayer or almsgiving (being charitable) to help us prepare for Easter and re-orient our lives back towards God.
Three of our Castlerigg volunteers have shared what they have given up, or taken up, for Lent this year. What we do as individuals isn’t something for us to brag about, so we haven’t included their names in this blog post. But we hope this will help you think about what you could do this Lent (better late than never!) to help you prepare for Easter.
Coming up to Lent this year, there was nothing that stood out to me as, in of itself, being worth giving up. Thinking about that while eating pancakes I thought about how Lent is a time to prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus and figured that one pro-active way of doing that would be to deliberately make time during my day specifically for prayer
How this looks for me in practice is that I deleted several apps on my phone which I waste time on, I made a prayer journal to make sure I was sticking to it and try to start and end my days, when I can, with morning and night prayer. Of course in the busyness of life this sometimes ends up with me scribbling my prayers down late at night, but it has helped me broaden my view of what I pray for, has given me time to reflect on who I am and what God has planned for me and to recognise how much I can still improve.
This Lent, I have decided to give up desserts. We are blessed with two great chefs here at Castlerigg, and there is always a lot of food available- including deserts at lunch and dinner time. I love desserts, my favourite is sticky toffee pudding!
Lent invites us to take a look over our lives, and think about where we have excess. What things do we actually need? What things could we do without? With giving up some sort of food, it’s not about starving ourselves but about trying to live a little more simply. This is for many reasons. Firstly, it helps us to appreciate the things we have. Secondly, it reminds us of people who don’t have so much. Thirdly, when we take excess things out of our lives, we open up more space for God. Our lives can become so full of worldly goods that we forget to leave space for God. I’m hoping that by giving up desserts I will become more grateful for the food I do have, and remember that God is the source of all the blessings in my life- including the food on our table!
This lent I am replacing the time I spend each day on social media with reading the daily Gospel.
Social media can be a place where we keep in contact with those we love and interact with the world in a way we may not be able to without its aid. But, for myself, for much of the time I use social media just to fill a gap. Without much thought, I will pick up my phone and scroll through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook before I sleep and do so again when I wake up. Often this scrolling is aimless and doesn’t incorporate any of the benefits that social media can bring into our lives; I am just scrolling for scrolling’s sake.
So this Lent I have decided to replace the time I spend each day on these apps with something more fruitful. I have been reading the daily gospel each day instead. Reading the gospel and partaking in Lectio Divina (the activity of reading scripture prayerfully) is one of my favourite ways of praying. I very rarely close the Bible without feeling as though some part of my heart has been moved. But, as with any prayer, the problem I find is often with me. I get lazy and I forget how much joy I find in the word of God. I say I’ll do it later, and the day too often ends without my bible being touched.
In Lent, we believe we are ‘giving something up’, but in return we gain far more. I have found in reading the gospel each day, that God always has something to say, in a way that is new and personal.
Have you done something for Lent this year? How could you prepare your heart for Easter? Trying to spend a little more time in prayer? Giving up some of life’s excesses? Or by being a little more charitable towards others?
It’s never too late to start!