In the Lenten season, which begins the Church's second cycle of preparation, celebration, and rejoicing, "we together work to root out the blindness and deception that prevent us from receiving each other as gracious gifts from God," Norman Wirzba writes.
Nicholas Russo searches for Lent's roots in the fasting practices of the early church—preparing catechumens for baptism, reenacting Jesus' fast in the wilderness after baptism, or keeping vigil for Easter. Scot McKnight warns that characteristic disciplines of Lent cut "against the grain of American culture [and]...of personal spiritualities of all sorts" as they bring us to be honest about our sinfulness and turn to God for forgiveness and correction. He describes Lenten fasting not as a means to something, but as "a response to sins and the prospects of death in our culture, our nation, our church, and our own life." Carmen Butcher and Heather Hughes explore other central Lenten practices—walking the stations of the cross and keeping vigil—in both their traditional forms and creative adaptations today.
In their Lenten meditations two young pastors, Alan Rudnick and Elizabeth Evans Hagan, discover the invitation to penitence and joy of receiving forgiveness in quotidian places. Heidi Hornik traces the portrayal of the penitential stance in painting and sculpture by Georges Rouault, Donatelli, and Bernini.
The study guides and lesson plans integrate Bible study, prayer, and worship to probe the origin of Lent and examine its practices so we can observe it faithfully and winsomely today. The guides can be used in a series or individually. You may download and reproduce them for personal or group use.
Download the entire Lent issue and the set of five Study Guides. Or, download individual pieces by clicking the titles below.
- "Preparing for Joy," by Norman Wirzba
- "The Early History of Lent," by Nicholas V. Russo
- "Lent as a Season of Responsive Fasting," by Scot McKnight
- "Walking the Walk (of the Stations of the Cross)," by Carmen Acevedo Butcher
- "Keeping Vigil," by Heather Hughes
- "The Voice in the Wilderness," by Heidi J. Hornik, on Georges Rouault, St. John the Baptist
- "The Penitence of Mary Magdalen," by Heidi J. Hornik, on Donatello, The Penitent Magdalen
- "The Penitence of Jerome," by Heidi J. Hornik, on Bernini, St. Jerome
Hymn and Worship Service
- "Come Near Today," by Eric Howell
- Worship Service for Ash Wednesday by Eric Howell
- "Lessons from a Donkey," by Alan R. Rudnick
- "Remembering Our Dust," by Elizabeth Evans Hagan
- Other Voices, Quotations on Lent
- The How and Why of Fasting, by Rachel Marie Stone
- Kent D. Berghuis, Christian Fasting: A Theological Approach
- Scot McKnight, Fasting
- Lynne M. Baab, Fasting: Spiritual Freedom beyond Our Appetites
- Catherine Mandell, When You Fast...Recipes for Lenten Seasons
- Adding In, Not Giving Up, by Elizabeth Sands Wise
- Emilie Griffin, Small Surrenders: A Lenten Journey
- Paula Huston, Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit
- John Indermark, Gospeled Lives: Encounters with Jesus, A Lenten Study
- Frederica Mathewes-Green, First Fruits of Prayer: A Forty-Day Journey through the Canon of St. Andrew