A Note From Fr. Tom
I’m a big fan of the etymologies, not only because they are fun conversation starters, but because they can help us come to a deeper understanding of words we use all the time. For example, have you ever wondered where the word “Lent” comes from? It’s a word that is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “springtime.” Yes, during these forty days of Lent, the temperature starts to climb, the snow begins to melt, and the leaves on the trees begin to come back. And while the weather is definitely changing, I think that “springtime” refers to something much deeper, because Lent is the true springtime of the Church.
How could the season of Lent be the springtime of the Church? The music is simpler at Mass, the decorations in the church are plain, and the sanctuary is bare. On Ash Wednesday, we literally entered the desert with Jesus! How is it possible to experience the fruitfulness of spring in a place like the desert? Why would the Lord invite us into the desert in the first place?
The prophet Hosea beautifully speaks about this divine invitation: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her… and I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:14, 19-20).
The desert, or wilderness, is the place where God speaks tenderly to us, and the Lord desires to bring us there in order to set us apart from all that distracts us from His love. While it’s easy to focus on the discomfort of the desert, the truth is that the desert is the place of intimacy with God. In these forty days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, whether we recognize it or not, the Lord is at work within our hearts, bringing forth new life, growth, hope, and conversion through His grace. This is why Lent is the true springtime of the Church!
So as the signs of spring begin to emerge outside, don’t forget to thank the Lord for signs of springtime that are emerging within your soul. And feel free to tell your friends about the etymology of the word “Lent”… it’s a fun conversation starter.
Fr. Tom Skaja