ANGLICAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
Diocese of the Northeast
Rt. Rev. Brian Marsh, Bishop
Diocese of the Northeast

 

Presiding Bishop's Lenten Message

 

"Necessary Days"

 

           Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

          Ash Wednesday begins with the above collect, in which we express sorrow for our sins and recognize our wretched state. Such words may hit us with great force; they are in fact designed to shock us into awareness, to provoke us to a healthy change. Such change will take time. A transformation that requires us to gain new and contrite hearts will not happen over night. It is why we are given forty days.

 

          Forty days is a very precise figure; the days of Lent are calculated with a certain accuracy that is rarely reserved for other seasons. The number of days in Advent, Epiphany and Trinity are variable. True, the Christmas season has twelve days, but the Biblical number forty is reserved only for the Lenten season.

 

          Our empirical age regards numbers with a certainty that often transcends spiritual reality. But the number forty had a very important meaning to the ancient Hebrew people, a meaning that said more than a sum of individual digits: "forty" meant "a sufficient time." Lent is more than a number of days; it is a reminder to us that we have been granted a sufficient amount of time to pray, meditate and empty ourselves of all the unnecessary "transgressions" that get in the way of God's purpose. These are necessary days, days that are important for our spiritual and physical health.

 

          Each year at this time, I take a certain book off a shelf in my study. It is called The Days of Lent. It was written by a Nineteenth Century bishop, The Rt. Rev. Frederick Dan Huntington. Bishop Huntington's book offers a brief meditation for every day in Lent. It is a supplement to the daily office, reminding me of the importance of using the days of Lent for prayer and meditation.

 

          It is my prayer that we may all use the necessary days of Lent by putting ourselves in a right relationship with God. We do this not by numbering our virtues, but by acknowledging our imperfections and transgressions. Removing these from our lives will free us to do the work we have been called to do. This is the purpose of the necessary days of Lent.

 

          A Blessed and Holy Lent to you all.

 

Your Brother in Christ,

+Brian