I’ll start with an addendum (oddly enough): prior to writing this piece, my knowledge of Lent was incredibly haphazard and incomplete. I had no clear idea what Lent was beforehand, beyond being the 40 days spanning the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter. When I first thought about what I was going to write about, I found myself absentmindedly thinking of Pentecost instead of Lent, which somewhat drove it home that I didn’t know nearly enough about the subject at hand. As a result, when I was thinking about what to write about I decided to read the Wikipedia article about Lent.
While I was aware that virtually all Christian denominations observe Lent to some extent or another, I was quite surprised to find that the extent and details of Lenten observation varied so dramatically. It reminded me of nothing so much as the myriad discrepancies that colour the field of modern Christianity. Were you aware that the Sundays in Lent don’t count towards the 40 days? I wasn’t. That some traditions count Good Friday and others stop beforehand? Completely unaware.
However, while writing the above paragraph, I realized something that went beyond these relatively petty discrepancies. That realization was the fact that despite these differences, we all observe Lent. While I would hazard a guess that many people, including myself, tend not to have a really clear idea of what Lent is or represents (apparently the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert!), it is one of the events on the church calendar that brings people from that community together in shared experience. And despite the fact that Lent is one of the more subdued periods on that calendar, it remains a reminder to me of the ecumenicalism that exists within the church in the world, and that never fails to bring me some small joy.