The season of Lent is approaching fast. This year it will start with Ash Wednesday on 14th February and finish at the end of Holy Saturday with the Easter Vigil and then the feast of Easter Sunday on 1st April. So it begins on Valentine’s Day and ends on April Fool’s Day,although neither is relevant to Lent. They just make the dates of Lent easier to remember in 2018! What does Lent mean to us nowadays? Do we think of it as a time for giving up sweets,to be followed by an orgy of chocolate at Easter? These days it is probably more fashionable to have a ‘Dry January’,giving up alcohol for a month after the excesses of the Christmas season,than to consider what Lent really means. The word ‘Lent’ comes from a medieval Germanic word referring to the lengthening of days in the spring. It is a period of 46 days leading up to Easter Sunday to remind us of Christ’s 40 days spent fasting in the desert. In the Catholic Church the six Sundays of Lent do not count as part of the Lenten season,as every Sunday in the liturgical year is considered a mini-Easter,a time for celebration. In Chapter 4 of his Gospel St Matthew tells the story of Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness,to be tempted there by the devil. He spent forty days and forty nights fasting,‘and at the end of them was hungry’. It was then that the devil approached and tempted him. Many Christians were taught as children to give something up for Lent. These sacrifices are really a form of penance. Throughout our history Christians have found prayer,fasting,and almsgiving to be an important part of repentance and renewal. Many now add something during Lent rather than giving up something,either to address personal habits that need work on,or to reach out to others in need. For example on Fridays in Lent there are usually soup lunches at St Austin’s,Stafford with donations taken for charity. The Stations of the Cross or Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) grew out of imitations of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem,which is believed to be the actual path Jesus walked to Calvary. In Gnosall we have our own Walk of Witness on Good Friday through the village,with people taking turns to carry the cross. This year it will be on Friday 30th March at 2.00pm. There will be other events in Gnosall throughout Lent,with full details being given in GPN and other places. Let’s try and make this Lent a meaningful one for us all in 2018. Mary Booth

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