In St. Benedict’s chapter on Lent in the Rule, he uses the word ‘joy’ in conjunction with this season. This may seem a bit unusual to most of us. We associate Lent with more sober, serious language in line with what is the accepted penitential character of this season. Benedict understands our Lenten offering as done ‘with the joy of the Holy Spirit.’ The personal Lenten discipline each of us undertakes is already the result of the Spirit. The Easter gift of the Spirit is prompting us to shape up our lives. It is Easter, the goal of Lent, that actually shapes our behavior these forty days. Lent clearly is related to its goal, Easter. Lent is not a goal unto itself but a season when we try to open up to the Paschal Mystery. Lent is meant to train us in the language and spirit of Easter.
Benedict actually sees Lent as a focus on our desire for Easter, a longing for this feast characterized by joy. Lent is our time to hone our desires. Our Lenten practices are meant to make us aware of our true desire and to shape and discipline our ways accordingly. What are we longing for? Things of the Spirit? Then waiting for the feast of life in the Spirit at Easter can be a waiting in joy to celebrate once again God’s breaking into our hearts and world on the feast of feasts and breathing his Spirit upon us to make all things new.
Prior Joel Macul, OSB