Posted by: AJ the Irish Lass | February 16, 2014

Should We Revive Pre-Lent?

Episcopalians tend to have a reputation for being members of a church that likes to use “funny” names for things.  The names of some of the feasts we observe are actually held in common by many other denominations. The names for many of these celebrations (Candlemas, Shrove Tuesday, Maundy Thursday, Tenebrae, etc.) have their roots in either Latin or older English terms.

You may see references to Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima from time to time. These last 3 Sundays before Lent have had special significance in times past that were marked by a more penitential feeling. I’ve grown up in a time where we just went straight from Epiphany to Lent.

Just my opinion, but I think that that we, as part of Christ’s Body, can benefit from reviving at least some aspects of pre-Lent/Shrovetide. For too many people, Lenten discipline has become too much about “What will I give up this year?” and “Ooops, I fell off the Lent wagon already!” (Your webmistress is as guilty of this as anyone, just so you know <g>)

While Lent should be more about reflection, it doesn’t hurt to have a period of time before the season to prepare. No matter whether you regularly observe Lent or not, taking time to reflect on what God has done for us and how we intend to live that out is good for the soul.


  1. It’s one of the standing debates in our jurisdiction, and I must admit to falling on the “no pre-Lent” side. Lent is a season of preparation, as well as being penitential, of stripping away and getting ready for the fullness of the Passion and the Resurrection. I’m not a fan of the “if something is good, more is better” and changing the liturgical color to purple prior to Lent, burying the “alleluia” etc. seems to fall in that category. There certainly is a place for penance in the Christian life, but it has been overdone in the past.

    I’ve come to think of Lent historically as being a time when folks “baptized necessity.” In an agricultural society, late winter was a time when it was necessary to conserve resources until the spring brought renewal and growth. Fasting made practical sense. The question for me now, is how does that translate into something meaningful in my life. An artificial giving-up doesn’t do it. So what does?

    I’m still pondering that.

    But thank you for raising the issue.

    • That’s a good issue, re; overdone penance. There’s always a real danger of taking it to extremes.

      One alternative to giving things up I’m aware of is adopting some sort of new prayer discipline or other spiritual aid. I know this wouldn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found it refreshing.

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