Last Easter, I distinctly remember getting dumped with snow, spending a large part of the day online (whether Zoom or Mass), and scratching my head about what just happened to the Triduum as I packed up the ham I purchased with a bigger crowd in mind. Although I sincerely feel more hopeful about celebrating Lent and Easter this go around than I did this time last year, there is still a lot yet to be determined as far as favorite traditions and accommodations given the various protocols of gathering or celebrating during the pandemic.
We have been at this liturgical living from home business for over a year now, so it seems realistic that we are up to the challenge.
Ideas for Participating in Lent This Year
Particularly, because much of the past year has been likened to its own Lent, we will need to be intentional when it comes to making meaning and making do when it comes to celebrating within set guidelines. To set this season apart from the drudgery or monotony that we have become familiar with, I have come up with a handful of ideas that could be worth incorporating as we journey together toward the cross this Lent.
When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. // Matthew 6:16-18
Many churches, retreat centers, and religious communities have outdoor Stations of the Cross on their grounds, or prayer gardens that are ideal for prayer that is both liturgical and “socially distant.” Try putting together your own Stations that you can use throughout the 40 days.
For folks who enjoy putting together egg hunts/scavenger hunts, Resurrections Eggs are a fun kid-approved way to combine the fun of Easter eggs with the telling of the story of the Paschal Mystery (and can be used before Easter). *Also available for purchase if crafting isn’t your thing.
Gather online with a friend or family member near or far to pray together or go through a Lenten devotional together. A quick online search will deliver more Lenten reflections than you can shake a stick at.
Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl Recipes from around the world offer an awesome opportunity to go meatless while adding some culture to Lenten cuisine. Praying for and learning about the cultures represented each year is a beautiful act of solidarity that goes beyond giving up meat.
Maybe this is the year to spread joy—a year we know people are in desperate search for hope. Would that they see our joy rather than our gloom that set us apart as we fast, give, pray for the brokenness in the world to be healed by the One Who overcame death. Whatever that looks like for you: pay it forward in the drive through lane, roll down your window and talk with the person asking for assistance, shovel a neighbor’s driveway anonymously, send a card of encouragement, make a double batch of soup and drop it off at a neighbor’s house. The possibilities are truly endless.
Lenten Beans to Jelly Beans
This is Lent’s version of adding manger straw to the manger at Christmas for doing good deeds, being caught doing something good. Instead of using straw, try using a jar full of dry beans to acknowledge sacrifices and opportunities taken to die to ourselves.
Celebrate a Seder Meal on Holy Thursday
Celebrating our Jewish history alongside of the Last Supper. The Seder meal is intended to be prayerful and symbolic walk through the Passover tradition that Jesus celebrated with His disciples on Holy Thursday. This is a two-fold opportunity to learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters, while connecting Jesus’ last meal to the institution of the Eucharist.
Are We Ever Ready?
I don’t know about you, but I never quite feel “ready” for Lent
The truth is we never are. But we are changed by the season in unforeseen and necessary ways. Heading into Lent can feel like heading into an exam that you have studied for, but is still going to put you through your paces. And, in so many ways this is our moment. The Christian community has the tools to lead the charge into the hopelessness and helplessness that have become so closely associated with these lenty and “unprecedented times.”
I suspect, at least I hope, that if we play our cards right these practices might rightly lead into the Easter season and beyond. Let’s make this a season that leaves those around us murmuring, “See how they love one another.”
How are you celebrating Lent this year? What’s different than usual for you?