But the great Orthodox theologian Alexander Shmemann speaks of a "bright sadness" that is the true message and gift of Lent. Yes, during these weeks we become especially mindful of the sinfulness that alienates us from God, indeed, of the human evil that nailed Jesus to those rough beams. And this we lament with sadness. At the same time, we understand that by his Jesus secured for us forgiveness and eternal life. We are like prisoners whose release draws near or refugees on our way back home or patients for whom the cure is working. Lent is sobering, but it leads to Easter!
The word lent comes from a Saxon word that originally meant "length" and was used to denote springtime. So in the northern hemisphere, at least, we observe Lent during a time of year when the days are lengthening and signs of new life are appearing. Even as Lent progresses with its somber themes and ascetic disciplines, the natural world reminds us of the coming resurrection