We’re deep into Lent—the 40 days leading up to Easter, historically a time of fasting and prayer, getting ready for the celebration of the Resurrection.
The word “Lent” comes from the old English “lencten,” which means spring. This is the early spring—and if your area is anything like mine, the crocuses are pushing up through the earth, a sure sign that spring is on the way.
The early Christians celebrated baptism at Easter and so they would dedicate the weeks beforehand as a time to prepare, to be reconciled to God by a period of penitence and fasting.
At first it was just a few weeks and then it became the 40 days that we know today—and remember that’s 40 not counting the Sundays which are technically feast days and not fast days.
So Lent was a description of the time of year this was all happening, spring coming to the earth as renewal was making its way to us.
But let me try out another felicitous way of thinking of the word “Lent.” Lent, as in lending something to someone, letting them have it because it’s yours to loan.
Sometimes you’ll hear the phrase, “borrowed time,” as in “He’s living on borrowed time.” But recently I read how in the 18th century a different expression was used. They would say “lent time.”
It’s a switch in emphasis. “Borrowed time” focuses on us and our notion of controlling our future. “Lent time” puts the emphasis back on God. Every moment is precious, every moment is lent by the divine.
Think of these precious days as something to be celebrated because they have been lent to us, lent by the greatest of all.
The Bible says, “You are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), a phrase that we repeat at Lent, a reminder of our mortality.
We are lent to the earth, lent to a life of joy and sorrow, lent to a life of love because we are loved. Happy Lent.