The English poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) wrote prolifically, and focused frequently on her vibrant faith. An Oxford Movement Anglican, she often structured her poetry around the Christian year.
Here is one of her poems for Lent, the season which, this year, began on Wednesday of this week.
It is good to be last not first,
Pending the present distress;
It is good to hunger and thirst,
So it be for righteousness.
It is good to spend and be spent,
It is good to watch and to pray:
Life and Death make a goodly Lent
So it leads us to Easter Day.
What strikes me about that poem is the very last line. It reminds us of the purpose of Lent. It is not an end in itself, nor is it some sort of religious diet or austerity plan. It is a means to an end. Lent is designed to prepare us for Easter.
Just as a measured celebration of Advent makes Christmas more special, so too does Lent, celebrated appropriately, make Easter more meaningful. By “celebrated appropriately”, one could mean any number of things, but at the very least, it means remembering that there are but 40 days in Lent: Sundays are not included. Each Sunday remains a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. There is no reason to hide our ‘alleluias’ on those Sundays, because each Lord’s Day is a reminder that the Lord is risen.
So, be last and not first; hunger and thirst; spend and be spent – as long as it leads to Easter Day. The story ends well, indeed, victoriously! Keep that end in mind, however you choose to celebrate Lent.
“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.57, NLT).