St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Friday, July 31, 2015
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Lent at St. Stephen's

 
Returning to the Sacred Presence
 
One of the greatest theologians the world has ever known, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), wrote about his prolonged, drawn-out search for God and the revelation he finally had that God had been with him all along:
 
I have learnt to love you late, Beauty at once so ancient and so new!  I have learnt to love you late!  You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself.  I searched for you outside myself….  You were with me, but I was not with you.
     Confessions, Book X.27
 
Waking to the reality of this very present Eternal Life, this “Beauty ever ancient, ever new,” is a transforming experience.  This life-giving Presence is always with us and within us.  The problem, of course, is that we are often distracted by many cares and occupations that keep us far away from God and from ourselves.  It is as if we spend much of our lives wandering “in a land that is waste,” while God constantly calls to us to return – return to ourselves, to our true life in God.
 
The forty days of Lent serve as a time for Christians to return to the Sacred Presence, to the God who has never left us, even though at times we have been far away.  Lent is a time to renew classic disciplines of prayer and reflection, as well as ancient practices such as fasting and Bible study.  All of this is designed to renew a right spirit within us and to prepare us for the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection at Easter.
 
Lent always begins with a day of special devotion and discipline known as “Ash Wednesday” which this year falls on February 18.  The traditional worship for this day is especially powerful and calls for the “imposition of ashes.”  Parishioners are invited to come forward to receive the imprint of ashes on their foreheads, as a sign of their mortality.  In this stark way, we are put in mind of the difference between those things that are passing away and those things that endure forever.
 
Following are some opportunities designed to help you in your observance of a holy Lent and prepare you for a return to the Sacred Life and Beauty that is always with you.
 
Ash Wednesday services
Wednesday, February 18 | 7:30 a.m. | noon | 5:30 p.m.
There will be no weekday Morning Prayer service nor Wonderful Wednesdays supper that day.
 
Lenten retreat
The Rt. Rev. Frank T. Griswold | Saturday, February 21, 9 a.m.-noon | REGISTER HERE
 
The 25th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church will visit St. Stephen’s to lead a Lenten retreat, preach at Sunday morning services, and speak in the Sunday Forum.

The first Saturday in Lent is often an occasion for a Lenten retreat at St. Stephen’s. Bishop Griswold will lead this offering from 9 a.m. to noon on February 21. “With Jesus in the wilderness: a journey of dis-illusion and discovery” is the title of this event. 

“The Spirit who descends upon Jesus at his baptism later drives him out into the wilderness to discover the deeper significance of who he is and is called to be,” says Bishop Griswold of the focus on this retreat. “We are called to make that same journey, in union with Jesus, and with the help of that same Spirit.”
 
Lenten resources
 
The Bookshop @ St. Stephen's offers a wonderful selection of books suitable for Lenten reading.
 
The Society of St. John the Evangelist offers Lenten resources, which you may find on their Web site.
 
St. Paul's Episcopal Church on East Grace Street in Richmond has offered a well-known daily Lenten preaching series for more than 100 years. This year's preachers include Brian McLaren, Lauren Winner, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Jim Forbes, and our bishop suffragan Susan Goff. Details are here.
 
At Information Central (the large table outside the parish office), you will find copies Forward Day by Day (daily devotions, $1 per booklet), and closer to the beginning of Lent, we'll offer the Lenten reflections booklet from Westminster-Canterbury of Richmond and brochures outlining St. Paul's Lenten Series (including preaching schedule and lunch schedule).
 
Remember our Weekly Bible Study, which you may read on this Web site, or receive via email.