February 14th is a big day for Andrew and me this year. Not because it’s our first Valentine’s day as a married couple (aw)… or because it’s my brother’s 31st birthday (Happy Birthday, Ty!).
It’s the first day of the season of Lent, and the day that we head to the Holy Land.
Yeah, I can’t believe it either. We’re going on a 10-day pilgrimage to Israel during Lent. What?!
Lent is the season leading up to Easter (the holiest day in the Christian year), and begins with Ash Wednesday. Maybe you’ve heard that oh-so-true phrase, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” or have seen someone in a movie get a cross of ashes smudged on their forehead – like in the movie Ladybird (such a great movie)! The last day of Lent is Easter Sunday, the day that marks Christ’s resurrection.
Lent is a time of reflection, prayer and repentance as Christians prepare their hearts for Easter and Christ’s sacrifice.
Here is an excerpt of the Ash Wednesday service from the Anglican Book of Alternative Services:
Dear friends in Christ,
every year at the time of the Christian Passover
we celebrate our redemption
through the death and resurrection
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration
and to renew our life in the paschal mystery.
We begin this holy season
by remembering our need for repentance,
and for the mercy and forgiveness
proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord,
to observe a holy Lent
by self-examination, penitence, prayer,
fasting, and almsgiving,
and by reading and meditating on the word of God.
Let us kneel before our Creator and Redeemer.
A common thing that people do to observe Lent is either give something up, take something on, or both. This year, I am going to:
Give up television. I tried this for one week before Christmas. Some of my friends can attest that it almost killed me. I didn’t realize how dependant I am on TV, and the stupid thing is, I don’t even like most TV shows (except Battle Star, of course, and Stranger Things). Life is short. Why am I dedicating so much of it to the boob tube? That’s not a rhetorical question.
Take up prayer journaling. I tried this a few years ago but didn’t keep it up. I’m not great at building lasting habits, but I’m hoping that by journaling while we’re in Israel, I’ll be able to make this stick. At least until Easter.
What are you giving up/taking on? Share in the comments!
Pilgrimage to Israel
A pilgrimage is a journey made to a sacred place for the purpose of veneration, supplication, or seeking God.
Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5)
Our pilgrimage takes us on a journey through Israel, following in the footsteps of Christ to places like Bethlehem, Nazareth, the towns around the Sea of Galilee, Qumran and the Dead Sea, and, of course, Jerusalem. We’re going with a group from Wycliffe College (Andrew’s seminary), and I hear that we will even be singing hymns on the bus. So it’s pretty legit.
What am I seeking? I’m sure that everyone who goes on a pilgrimage to Israel says this, but I want to get a feel for the setting of the Bible. What does the wilderness look like, where Jesus so often wandered? (Probably not like a Canadian wilderness). What do the mountains look like? (Probably not like the Rockies). What does this desert look like, that we read about again and again in the Bible? I don’t even have a frame of reference for that one! I know I’ve seen these things in photos, but I want to feel it all, physically.
In a broader sense, I’m seeking God. I mean, He was there.
I’m sure that my next blog post, after I return, will be a lot more exciting than this one. In the meantime, keep us pilgrims in your prayers as we travel, and if you have any tips from your own pilgrimages, please share in the comments!
God of pilgrims, teach us to recognize your dwelling-place in the love, generosity, and support of those with whom we share our journey, and help us to worship you in our response to those who need our care; for all the world is your temple and every human heart is a sign of your presence, made known to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Anglican Book of Alternative Services)
Another fun blog post: 6 Top Christian Pilgrimages: Rediscovering an Ancient Practice
Photo by Virpeen Syp on Unsplash