A Repentance Season that Leads to Renewal

Author: Esau McCaulley

When I first transitioned from a protestant background to a catholic church (Episcopalian and then Anglican), I was dismayed by the concept of Lent. It seemed like a dour season, one meant to strip the joy out of Christianity. Was this just another reincarnation of the hell-fire-and-brimstone protestant teaching that I found so one-dimensional, a teaching that while necessary can be (and is) certainly overdone, leaving out everything else about Christianity, especially the joy? Imagine my surprise then when I ended up liking Lent, appreciating its deep sense of introspection, its quiet, humble walk behind Jesus through His crucifixion. There is, certainly, a somberness to the season, but there is far more hope, far more reminders of what Jesus’ gift really means to his followers. It’s a season to refocus ourselves on what truly matters, to mute the noise and bustle of the world and come close to the God who loves us.

This year, I hadn’t done much for Lent, honestly, or even noticed it. But then I saw Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal on GoodReads and knew it was exactly what I needed for spiritual renewal. I came to McCaulley first through his thoughtful book, Reading While Black, which unabashedly tackled the tough issues in the Bible, specifically slavery in the Old Testament. If McCaulley could handle such a thorny subject with grace, honesty, and wisdom, then Lent would be a walk in the park for him.

This short book is somewhere between a devotional and an explanation. Like me, McCaulley came from a protestant background and came to Lent with the same nervous expectations. Here, he introduces Lent and the purposes of liturgical tradition without advocating for any denomination or sparking the protestant vs catholic argument. He looks at Lent practically – what does it do for us? Is it just an empty ritual, or is there more to the practice?

Image by Romy from Pixabay

A lot of the Bible focuses on ritual, especially the Old Testament. Does Jesus new covenant, which takes us out from under the old law, necessarily preclude us from ritual – from using institutions and manners of focusing and worship that humans have found grounding and beneficial for centuries? McCaulley argues that it does not. Then he walks the reader through the season of Lent and its traditions: ashes, fasting, prayers, readings, stations of the cross, and more.

McCaulley’s arguments are convincing and leave room for individuals to experience the Lenten traditions one-on-one with God. McCaulley convinced me to look again at that old Biblical activity of fasting and think about what incorporating it into my life for God’s glory might look like. He also helped me to refocus, to close off my distracted mind from the world, and to take this time to think through what Jesus did for us via His death: something that is central to Christianity but easy to emotionally forget or distance ourselves form as we get enmeshed in day-to-day living. This book encouraged me to pick myself up, dust myself off, and reengage with God again, using tried and true wisdom from ancient and modern Christians to keep myself grounded and focused on what really matters. You’ll never again look at Lent the same way, and certainly never again with dread and skepticism.

– Frances Carden

Follow my reviews on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/xombie_mistress

Follow my reviews on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/FrancesReviews

Frances Carden
Latest posts by Frances Carden (see all)