Etymology: Middle English shadwe, from Old English sceaduw-, sceadu shade
Date: before 12th century
1: partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body.
2a: an imperfect and faint representation; b: an imitation of something
Too often we live in the shadows rather than the light. In the Christian church calendar, the season of Lent begins on February 25, 2009.
The Lenten season is traditionally spent in self-examination and reflection - sometimes fasting from food or activities. Some people give up sweets or television or shopping or being tied to the technology that can dominate our lives. Sometimes people add something to their lives – more prayer time or more time spent meeting the needs of others.
While the Lenten season may be more somber than other church seasons, it is not meant to be sullen or melancholy. Lenten disciplines are not meant to be punishment – we are not doing arbitrary disciplines to make up for wrong doing. We are not trying to behave ourselves after months of misbehaving. Lenten disciplines are meant to draw us toward the light of God so that we might live in the light rather than the shadows.
The Ash Wednesday liturgy in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer issues an invitation to a journey of looking intently at ourselves and those things and activities or attitudes that darken our hearts and our lives – those things that keep us lurking in the shadows rather than in the light.
Lent invites us on a journey of repentance – a time for turning from one thing to another; a time for turning from those things drawing us away from God and keeping us from living in the light.