Some people find February a particularly depressing month. The joys of Christmas are but a distant memory and, although there may be tantalizing signs of the coming of Spring, we may feel as if winter will never end. February ‘fill-dyke’ can be a rather miserable in-between time – a time of waiting.
With Easter being fairly late this year, February is also an ‘in-between’ time in the church calendar. The Christmas/Epiphany season reaches its conclusion with the celebration of the Presentation of Christ at the beginning of the month, and we are left with just over three weeks before the beginning of Lent.
In our current calendar the Sundays leading up to Lent have the rather unimaginative names of ‘Sundays before Lent’. Many people miss the old names for these Sundays – Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima (meaning 70, 60 & 50 days before Easter). But at least the new names remind us that the important season of Lent is near at hand and that we need to prepare for it.
In order to help us to do just that, two of these Sundays are given important themes: Creation Sunday and Transfiguration Sunday. Before embarking on the spiritually demanding season of Lent, with our thoughts turning to the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord, we are firstly given an opportunity to celebrate God as creator of the universe of which we are part. We can rejoice in the beauty of the world around us and see it as the expression of God’s creative Love.
Then, on the Sunday before Lent, the theme is the Transfiguration of Christ on the Holy Mount – that wonderful moment when Peter, James and John were privileged to see the glory of Christ’s divinity shining out through his mortal flesh. This is a particularly appropriate theme for the days leading up to Ash Wednesday. The main reason for the Transfiguration was to make the disciples listen to what Jesus was trying to teach them – that he was going to Jerusalem to die on the cross and to rise again. So in keeping Transfiguration Sunday we are being prepared for our commemoration of Lent, Holy Week and Easter.
Transfiguration is also an important theme for the Sunday before Lent because Lent is very much about our need to be transfigured into the likeness of Christ. Lent is a time to grow closer to Christ, indeed to grow more like him. To be changed into his likeness.
So, let’s use these ‘waiting days’ of February to prepare ourselves for the keeping of a good Lent and a deeper celebration of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Details of parish activities for Lent ’17 will be available in the course of the month, but in the context of our preparation to put into effect the new Church in Wales policy of welcoming all the Baptized to receive Communion the overall theme will be what it means to be a ‘Eucharistic People’.
With my best wishes and prayer,