roamin' catholic: karin rosner

Lent: Mark, Chapter 14

Posted on: March 9, 2011

Paul Gaugin.

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

-Mark 14:37-38 (NIV)


It’s Tuesday night. I’m on way home after a traditional Shrove Tuesday  Pancake Supper at my church. My eyes are drooping and I’m propped up against a subway door, typing out this post on my iPhone. I’m fighting fatigue, yet I’m determined to say something about Lent before this part of the year really begins. At 9:30 PM, there are no seats in my crowded uptown train. I’m running on fumes after a busy weekend and two busy workdays, with one more intense day of project deadlines PLUS Ash Wednesday church stuff poured into the next 24 hours. I’m pooped. We’re only half-way through the week… and I’m plum tuckered out.

Someone got off at Grand Central Station and I finally grabbed a seat , wedging myself into the corner of the subway car. Greg H. asked me to write a little about what Lent was all about, especially for the curious non-Lent people who might want to explore Lent for themselves. I’ve been thinking about what to write for a few days. What can I share with you, especially if you’re one of the people who think Lent is only a Catholic thing?  More and more church communities are re-discovering Lent and adapting very old traditions into what works for their churches.

There’s tons of good info on Lent across the web. This is how I am “keeping a Holy Lent” this year. Next year I might do everything differently.  What can I share with you here before I need to change trains?

What I think that Lent is  that it’s about the whole Church – you and me –  waiting and praying for the Resurrection. We know, believe and remember the story. We take a collective breather and look to the Holy Spirit’s real help to guide us into a deeper place inside ourselves,  where we are with Christ in the Garden at Gethsemane, and accompanying him to the hill called Golgotha.  We pay attention to the harsh bloody, deathly reality of the price that Jesus, God Himself among us, paid for us on the Cross to save us from ourselves, to save us from our sin.  By trying to be quieter and more attentive, by praying to stay awake and watch with Christ in his Passion as He prayed to His Father on the night before His death, we get ready to really appreciate His Resurrection. What we’re groaning for, inspired by the Holy Spirit praying too deeply for words within us, is Christ’s return in Glory, when He will make all things new.


I’ve changed trains, grabbed another seat. My iPhone’s battery is running down. What I’ve written up above is a little poetic theology. How about the practical side of things? What do you need to do?

The answer is not in “prescriptions” for doing it right. There is no right way or wrong way to do Lent. Some denominations proscribe traditions like fasting, abstaining from eating meat, giving “something up”; for other church communities it’s up to the individual to decide which of any dozen or so traditions developed over 20 centuries are helpful.

So, for me, Lent observances are all about intentionally being quiet, watchful and waiting.  I remember that I am a sinner. I am saved, but I am still a sinner. I try to make my life more simple and less hectic so that I can make more time in my prayer life for… something to happen… maybe. That’s up to God, and not me. Nothing I do or not do, eat or not eat, pray or not pray will make me a holier person. The most I can do is find ways to help me pray for more surrender to God so that He can do whatever He wants to do in my life.  I’ve embraced and adapted the traditions that my Roman Catholic upbringing made me hate and dread. So, starting on Ash Wednesday and for the following Fridays   I’ll eat very light vegetarian meals. On Ash Wednesday, I’ll receive teh cold, ashes of burned palm fronds smeared on my forehead in the form of a cross by one of the ministers from my church, hearing either “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The imposition of ashes recalls the ancient anointing of Kings, and the anointing of the body at death. I remember that I am going to die, and face judgement… but I remember that I am saved, forgiven and I am free.

I’m not giving “up” anything for Lent. I’ll still be on Facebook, which lots of my friends will give up, along with Twitter! Jesus Christ is Risen was something I was planning to launch right before Lent (and I’ve been thinking about  this page since Halloween, by the way).

Instead of  “giving up” anything, I’m trying to make more quiet time for prayer and reading my Bible before I leave for work instead of praying during my commute. I may pray hard during my train ride, but it’s hard to listen to God when you’re distracted by the noise and events happening around you. Being more “intentional” in my praying for others, really keeping a  journal for intercessory prayer is something I’m going to make a habit that will last long past Easter.

I’ll finally take down my Christmas tree. That seems appropriate in getting ready for Easter.  I’m having one of those incredibly intense lives right now with not a lot of time to take care of those minor details.

I love the traditions of my church during Lent: music, purple vestments and decorations, quietness and solemnity, praying the Stations of the Cross,  and not using the word “Alleluia (or “Hallelujah”) for the long 40 days until Easter. I will go to a Tenebrae service this year (check it out with a Google Search.)  Lenten observances culminate in celebrating Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm (or “Passion”) Sunday, celebrating the Lord’s Supper on Thursday of Holy Week, recalling the Crucifixtion on Good Friday, and waiting. On Saturday night, lighting he Church begins to gather to wait for the Ressurection! Finally, with the lighting of a small fire in a church or a church parking lot, Easter candles, the ringing of bells and proclamations of “The Lord is risen! Alleiluia!” the quiet ends and we celebrate the promise God has shown us in Christ’s rising from the dead.


I’m at my train station, and I’m ready to pray through the Stations of the Cross along with thousands of living Christians throughout the world during the next few weeks.

How do you plan on staying awake during Lent, maybe for the first time?

You can visit this on Facebook to see what I and some of my friends are doing to mark Lent on Facebook:

Jesus Christ is Risen Page


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