Keeping Lent in Autumn by Bruce Jenneker

The word Lent reminds us that Christianity began in the Northern Hemisphere. It comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for Spring, Lenthen. In the Northern Hemisphere Spring coincides with the forty days of Lenten preparation for Easter. For us who live in the Southern Hemisphere, Lent heralds the beginning of Autumn. With it comes the rich harvest of grapes and the beginning of the winemaking process.

The fruits are at their ripest, it is a season . . .
‘of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core.’
from To Autumn, John Keats

Autumn is a complex season, with many layers of meaning: it is the fulfilment of the promise of Spring and the harvest of the Summer sun; it is also the season that ushers in the death of year, when Winter will reign. All is pared down; the leaves fall. Yet in the Autumn stillness the seeds that will flourish and blossom in the Spring begin their slow growth. Nature concentrates her energies to ensure that life will be renewed when the globe turns once more towards the sun.

Lent like Autumn is the season of fulfilment and harvest, time of the falling off of things and their death, time also of the beginning of the process of triumphal rebirth and renewal of life. Lent is a time to observe nature, and to move into alignment with it. Everything around us is golden and rich and full: so we take stock of the fullness of life with which we have been blessed, filled with all the fullness of God. But just as in Autumn the world is slowing dying, so in Lent we contemplate the dryness and death that stalks our spirituality, naming our sins and failures, contrasting the harvest of Gods blessings with our often dry and barren spirits.

And as the beginning of new life phoenix-like is burgeoning in the dying world around us, so in Lent we claim with confidence the promise of salvation and new life that is already laying hold of us.

The Weekdays of Lent are a pilgrimage of self-examination and Bible Study, repentance and acts of loving-kindness. This pilgrimage of is punctuated by the celebration of Sundays in Lent when the promise salvation and new life is proclaimed with joyful expectation.