Rituals for Lent
of Death and Life
It is often said that there can be no resurrection without death. New life is almost always preceded by death in an perpetual cycle of regeneration. This cycle of death and rebirth is evident everywhere in the created order around us. We see how the death and ‘burial’ of the seed is what allows it to germinate and become a fresh, green shoot searching out the brilliance of the sun. Similarly, many animals also cycle through rest and retreat before the purposeful activity of reproduction. For example, the caterpillar cocoons itself in a ‘tomb’ so that it can rise again in the glorious beauty of a butterfly. And again, the flourishing of the Australian bush requires it to be ravaged by fire before it too rises from the ashes. In our own lives, cycles of death and regeneration play an important role. Students hunker down for exam preparation which is followed by celebration. And at the end of our days, our physical death is the catalyst for our rebirth into eternal life.
Lenten Practices and Rituals
The word ‘Lent’ means ‘springtime’ and of course in the northern hemisphere, Lent occurs during, or just before, Spring. It is intended to be a time of preparation for energetic growth. It is a time set aside to renew and prepare ourselves to receive the fullness of the resurrection. Yet before there can be the joy and exuberance of new life, first there must be death – death to selfishness, death to mean-spiritedness, death to anything that serves us rather than others.
To prepare our minds and hearts for the joyous celebration of new life and energy of Easter, we can use Lent as a kind-of spiritual makeover time. Personal pledges to forgo favourite foods, to fast, to give to charity and to extend our prayer time are simple and effective ways to reorientate our hearts from selfishness towards life and love. The Stations of the Cross is an ancient prayer tradition designed to to do just this. While it can seem sombre and gloomy to meditate on Jesus’ suffering and death, the essence of this prayer is to recognise the ‘cross’ in our own lives so that we too may participate in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
This prayer is both powerful and beautiful. To engage children, try these two adaptations in the home or classroom. The Stations of the Cross for Kids is an interactive worksheet that allows younger children to visually enter the mystery of the passion through drawing and colour. The Stations of the Cross for Families is a simple prayer liturgy using the image of extinguished candles to signify the journey into new life through darkness.
Over to you! How have you done lent as a family? Do you have any special rituals that you do with your kids? How have your lenten commitments helped your spiritual growth? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!
For more on Lent, check out: