Entries tagged with “Lent”.

For your reflection this Maundy Thursday:

To the Garden of Gethsemane

To the Garden of Gethsemane
Follow now the Lord and his disciples.
See him in the throes of agony
As the cords of death about him tangle.
Think upon this mystery:
The pain he feels, he feels for thee.

Here, as pow’rs of darkness him surround,
Hear his double prayer to God for mercy.
See him on his face fall to the ground,
Crying, “Take this cup of anguish from me!”
Watch his sweat drip down like blood,
First trickle of the coming flood.

Yet, though overwhelmed in his distress,
Still submits he to the purpose divine.
Hear him to his Father acquiesce,
Praying, “Let thy will be done and not mine.”
In response, God’s angel nears
And gives him strength to meet his fears.

Now the traitor springs and love profanes;
Comes by night to do his master’s mission.
This is now the hour when darkness reigns –
Now, when rightful king falls to sedition.
Hear the ancient serpent’s hiss!
Oh, see the strike beneath the kiss.

Maundy Thursday, 2011
Mathew Block


I’ve posted the words to this one online before, but this is the first recording I’ve uploaded.

crucifixionYou should believe, and never doubt,” writes Luther, “that you are in fact the one who killed Christ. Your sins did this to Him. When you look at the nails being driven through His hands, firmly believe that it is your work. Do you see His crown of thorns? Those thorns are your wicked thoughts.”

Luther’s point is an important one: If we do not see ourselves as the persecutors of Christ in the passion narratives, then we read them wrongly. As the disciples failed to keep watch with the Lord in Gethsemane, we too in sloth ignore him. As Judas betrayed him with a kiss, so in our thoughts, words, and deeds we betray him daily. We reject him like Peter, wash our hands of him like Pilate, call for his death like the crowds, and lead him out to Golgotha. We crucify him and hurl insults at him as he hangs dying on the cross. We kill God.

Read the rest of my post on “The right way to meditate on Christ’s sufferings” over at First Things.


This Lent I am giving up Facebook. I first began this practice back in 2009, and while at the time I was unaware of anyone else doing it, I have since learned that Facebook-fasting (or Fast-booking, if I might so call it) is becoming a very popular Lenten observance, particularly among young Christians.

In some ways, choosing to give up Facebook for Lent is kind of a no-brainer for me. I’m not a big fan of chocolate so giving it up wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice. Likewise it wouldn’t be that big of a deal for me to give up meat; I often forgo it at mealtime anyhow. But when I think about my daily habits, the things I enjoy doing on a frequent basis, one thing pops to mind (perhaps a bit too quickly): Facebook.

In many ways, my generation is the “connected generation”. Cell-phones, texting, Twitter and Facebook… for many youth and young adults, these services are simply part of daily life. And while I have (fortunately) thus far avoided texting, I was caught in the gravitational pull of Facebook some years ago. The ability to keep up with friends near and far, plan events, and follow the updates of organizations which interest me were all big attractions. I have since found Facebook an excellent tool for all these things and more.

But, like any tool, it can be misused. Or perhaps I should say over-indulged. Since joining the social networking site, I find myself taking frequent breaks from whatever I am doing to “check Facebook.” More often than not, nothing has happened, as I just checked the site a half hour previous. Now in honesty, for me this doesn’t add up to all that much time spent on Facebook. I pop on for a few seconds and then pop back off. Why then, you might ask, do I choose to give it up for Lent? If it isn’t that time-consuming a habit for me, why should I give it up?

Let’s be clear on something: Lent is not diet-season. It’s forty days of fasting. And believe me, dieting and fasting are two very different things. When we diet, we give up an enjoyment because we’ve been enjoying it to an excess – whether it’s food or Facebook or any other thing else. We’ve over-indulged, so we cut back. But when we fast, we fast in order to draw closer to God. People who fast from lunch during Lent can use the time which would normally be spent eating for prayer or Scripture reading. By sacrificing something enjoyable – like chocolate – others can reflect on the infinitely greater sacrifice of Christ. People who are tempted to break their fast from meat might use the opportunity to focus on the temptations of Jesus, after he had just spent forty days without food of any kind.

I give up Facebook for Lent because it affords me an opportunity for more spontaneous prayer throughout the day. Anytime during Lent when I think, “I should check Facebook,” I instead take a minute or two to pray. And because I normally would check Facebook a number of times during the day, I end up spending far more time in prayer than I otherwise would. Eventually, the thought popping into my head during Lent becomes “I should say a prayer” rather than “I should check Facebook.” And that’s a reformation of my mind for which I’m more than happy to sacrifice Facebook for forty days every year.

Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day just prior to Ash Wednesday. Today is the day just prior to the beginning of Lent.

Have you ever wondered what Ash Wednesday and Lent is all about? Click here to read the post I wrote last year on the subject.

God bless!

P.S. I had pancakes today, as is the custom on Shrove Tuesday. Rather delightful.

This Wednesday (for those of us who still remember such days) marks the beginning of Lent: forty days spent in repentance before Easter – (the forty days do not include Sundays as they remind us of Easter and are celebrations of the resurrection of Christ). Lent is a period of fasting, of meditation, and of self-reflection. It is an opportunity to search our hearts and consider that it was our own sin which drove Christ to the cross. As such, it is a period of immense gravity.

The number forty has often been the duration of time God sets for important periods of cleansing and preparation. The rain fell forty days and nights to wash away the world’s filth during the time of Noah. Moses remained on the Mountain of God forty days to receive the Law from the LORD. Even Jesus Himself was led into the wilderness to be tested forty days by Satan, an important preparation for the greatest struggle He would later face: His crucifixion. Reflecting on these types of events, we set aside forty days each calendar year and think of our own need for cleansing. And we prepare ourselves for the memorial of how that cleansing came. That is to say, we look forward to our bitter-sweet Good Friday.

Today is Ash Wednesday. In biblical times, people, when they recognized their sin and repented, would put on sackcloth and sprinkle ashes upon themselves. It is a sign of contrition and brokenness before God. In some liturgical churches, this practice is symbolically invoked today. After spending time in personal reflection, congregants each receive ashes in the shape of the cross on their foreheads. It is an act of both individual and corporate confession.

Traditionally, the ashes were the remains of branches waved at Palm Sunday the Church-year previous. It is a solemn reminder that, while we praise God with our lips, shouting, “Hosanna to the King,” too often we deny him with our lives; our praises turn to bloodthirsty cries of “Crucify!” Truly, “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

And so we wear the ashes, symbol of our repentance. Yet we do not remain entirely forsaken. The ashes, as has been said, are applied in the shape of a cross. In the midst of our deep contrition, we recognize that forgiveness has been bestowed upon us. But at what cost! The Son of God slain – for thirty pieces of silver! And it was I who did it. It was you who did it. It was each of us who nailed His precious hands down, and it was each of us who forced the barbarous thorns into His beautiful head. Yet, in love, He called out for us, calls out for us even now, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

It is this forgiveness we seek during Lent. We know our sins. And so we watch, we wait, and we prepare for the day of remembrance, trusting in the blood of our Passover Lamb. So may this be our attitude throughout this Lenten season.


Almighty and everlasting God, who hates nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthy lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect for Ash Wednesday
The Book of Common Prayer