Gasp did I just use Joy and Lent in the same title? Well yes I did. This weekend I went to Mass with my parents at St. Joseph parish in Springfield and they had a liturgical booklet for their lenten Masses with that title. On the front cover was the following quote from the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer for the first week of lent:
"Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed."
Preface, Lent 1
The booklet went on to explain the title with the following which I will quote verbatim:
The Joy of Lent
We hear repeatedly that Lent is a time for reflection and repentance. But do we realize that Lent is also a time to seek joy, that is the Lord's joy: "Joy I give unto you as the world cannot give." This is the promise from Christ. So how does this "joy" related to Lent?
Joy happens when we open our hearts and minds, our fears and hopes, our hurts and sins, to the transforming action of the Spirit of the Lord God.
Some would say that experiencing joy in Lent is an oxymoron, given the traditional notion of penitence. Cleansing ones heart begins with penitence and in that cleansing comes a renewed understanding of what it means to be a follower of the Risen Lord.
Joy is the enticing encounter of Lent's journey. Joy is experienced by the whole church as we look on the faces of the candidates and catechumens. Their transforming journey aims toward the death dealing/life-giving waters of baptism during the Easter Vigil celebration. Joy blossoms in the heart of every person who confesses his or her sins, repents, and surrenders all to the embrace of God's faithful love and kindness. Such a journey explodes into joy in the eating and drinking of the Body and Blood of Christ there at the table/altar of life.