Lent begins on March 1st this year, considerably later than last year’s early February start. The timing is a good opportunity to consider the fact that the word Lent” comes from the Old English word for spring.” As rightly as we might associate Lent with death, we would do well to remember that it’s a springly sort of death — akin, perhaps, to the way the death of a seed is necessary to the blossoming of a flower.

C. S. Lewis is one of the voices that reminds us that the invitation to die is really the invitation to life. Consider what he says about self-denial in the opening words of his famous sermon, The Weight of Glory.” 

If you asked twenty good [persons] today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old [they] would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has a lot to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself.

Some Help Along the Way 

As we ready ourselves for this dual movement of death and resurrection — self-denial and love — Renovaré is pleased to once again offer our two Renovaré Lenten devotionals. 

Dying: Disciplines of Abstinence

Less is More: A Lenten Guide for Personal Renewal helps us make space by prompting intentional reflection on the aspects of our lives that stand in the way of walking in God’s spirit. Each week, a classic spiritual discipline provides the entry point for self-examination, God reflection, and godly action. 

  • Confession: Less Guilt/More Grace 
  • Solitude: Less Noise/More Listening 
  • Fasting: Less Consumption/More Compassion 
  • Simplicity: Less Stuff/More Freedom 
  • Frugality: Less Spending/More Peace 
  • Intercession: Less Me/More Others 
  • Reflective Reading of Holy Week Story: Less Fear/More Love 

Living: Disciplines of Engagement

Engage: A Lenten Guide for Spiritual Growth helps us prepare for the dance of resurrection” by inviting us into a week-by-week journey of engagement. 

  • Ash Wednesday Week: Submission 
  • Week One: Study 
  • Week Two: Worship 
  • Week Three: Celebration 
  • Week Four: Service 
  • Week Five: Community 
  • Holy Week
  • Easter Sunday

However you prepare for Lent this year, our hope is that you will arrive at Easter profoundly ready to participate in the resurrection. In the meantime, we offer this prayer, adapted from Henri Nouwen’s book A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee:

Yes, Lord, we have to die — with you, through you, and in you — and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to us in your Resurrection. There is so much in us that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess.… We see clearly now how little we have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let us find you again. Amen.