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  • Writer's pictureSt. Matthew's Blog

The Meaning of Lent

Updated: Feb 22

Every year at the start of Lent I post the following piece by Frederick Buechner. I have found that it brings a focus both to Lent and to life that is very helpful, and so I commend it to you once again.


Frederick Buechner
Carl Frederick Buechner (July 11, 1926 – August 15, 2022) was an American author, minister, and theologian. The author of thirty-nine published books, his career spanned more than six decades and encompassed many different genres.

In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the river Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.

If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn’t, which side would get your money and why?

When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?

If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less?

Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember?

Is there any person in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?

If this were the last day of your life, what would you do with it?

To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sack-cloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.

~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words



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