My worship professor in seminary — many years ago — pointed out to us that, in the earlier days of the church, Lent was both a season of penance and a season of celebration. For those looking towards their baptism at Easter, it was a season of penitential preparation; for mourning their sins and focusing upon their liberation by Christ who took those sins upon himself when he was lifted up on the cross. For those who were already marked by baptism, however, it was a season of joyful preparation for the celebration of the saving act of the death & resurrection of Jesus; Emanuel.

‘How very much like the church,’ he said, ‘to simplify a liturgical season and keep the penance and toss out the celebration.’

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