Every important event requires preparation, and so the Church has a traditional Pre-Lenten period to get ready for the holy season. In the East, we see this through the Meatfare and Cheesefare Sundays that ease into the penance of the Great Fast. In the West, starting with Septuagesima Sunday, there were two and a half weeks of voluntary fasting, violet vestments, and the removal of the Alleluia to ease into the beginning of Lent.
Drawing from the traditional readings from Matins for the Septuagesima season, Exodus is following the beginning of the Book of Genesis to read the accounts of Creation, the Flood, and God’s covenant with Abraham. The great figures of Adam, Noah, and Abraham will give focus to our Pre-Lenten preparation by listening to the voice of the Lord who invites us to leave behind the ways of the world and to follow him with our whole being.
The first week of reflections, focused on Creation, recounts the goodness of all that God has made. He made man in his image and unto his likeness, entrusting him with the care and perfection of the world, which he should use to meet the needs of others through his work. At the culmination of Creation stands God’s own rest, inviting us to his own life beyond the world as the goal of our existence. Despite the intrinsic goodness of creation, the first man and woman fell from friendship with God through disobedience. God did not abandon us but promised to raise up the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent, which will be fulfilled in the coming of the Son of God into the world.
The second week of our Pre-Lenten exercise, explains the narration of the Flood, through which God renews the world through water after it had become corrupted by sin. Genesis speaks of the evil within the human heart, which led to the sins of idolatry, murder, and sexual perversion. Noah stands out for his righteousness, and his obedience becomes the means of renewal for the entire world. The ark symbolizes the protection that God offers his sons in the world, sheltering them from the storms that arise in this sinful world. The story concludes with a new covenant of peace in which God promises to uphold the order of the world and which calls forth Noah’s sacrifice to order the world to God as its goal.
Finally, in the last full week of Pre-Lent, we follow the story of Abraham, who left his home in Ur of the Chaldeans at the Lord’s command and journeyed West to the land God would show him. His faith and confidence in God were so strong that he believed when God promised him a son even when his wife was long past childbearing age. When this son finally arrived twenty-five years later, he was willing to offer him back to God, as a sign that he trusted in God’s plan absolutely, even to the point of overcoming death. This points to God’s own generosity in pouring out his only begotten Son for us on the Cross.
The Book of Genesis calls us to respond to God in a similar fashion. God calls us out of the sinful ways of the world to walk in righteousness before him. He wants us to learn to listen to his voice, to find shelter in his presence, and to become the means of renewal for others. By entering into serious preparation for Lent, we will find that we are ready to enter into the prayer and fasting of the holy season so that it can become more fruitful both for ourselves and for those we love.
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