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二○一九年三月十六日/三月十七日                                                                                         Click here for English version

預苦期的省察與預備

孔桂芳牧師

在教會的年曆裡,復活節前46天的星期三是聖灰日,是預苦期的開始。今年的聖灰日是3月6日,當天早上的祈禱會中,教牧在每位弟兄姊妹的手背上用灰劃十字,塗灰時教牧對領灰者說:「你本是塵土,仍要歸於塵土,要遠離罪惡,忠心事主。」領灰者內心的回應是面對自己的本相,謙卑悔罪,盼望將來。

聖灰日提醒信徒,要像昔日神的選民以色列人那樣,透過披麻蒙灰來表達對罪的懊悔。整個預苦期期間,信徒要謙卑在上主面前,省察自己的罪,尋求憐憫及赦免。神應許說:「我住在至高至聖的所在,也與心靈痛悔謙卑的人同居;要使謙卑人的靈甦醒,也使痛悔人的心甦醒」(賽五十七 15)。信徒在預苦期中,要校正自己的焦點,從著眼自己的需要,轉向以上主為中心,藉著靈修、祈禱、自我省察,使自己更專注上主,將自己再次奉獻委身給祂。

有信徒在這時期選擇不同程度的禁食,認真對付自己的罪,甚至某些影響著自己與神關係的生活習慣或捆綁,尋求真實經歷主耶穌使「被擄的得釋放,瞎眼的得看見,叫那受壓制的得自由」。他們或是在上主面前清理內心的苦毒、惱怒,或是放棄某些奢侈品或某些事物。有姊妹嘗試46天禁戒最喜愛的甜品;也有平常機不離手的,每晚關手機一小時,給予自己空間安靜默想聖經。坊間有不少供預苦期經文默想的材料,可幫助我們更貼近主,與祂同行。

在預苦期,我們除了省察自己,也應努力實踐慷慨關愛的行動,「我所揀選的禁食不是要鬆開凶惡的繩,解下軛上的索,使被欺壓的得自由,折斷一切的軛嗎?不是要把你的餅分給飢餓的人,將飄流的窮人接到你家中,見赤身的給他衣服遮體,顧恤自己的骨肉而不掩藏嗎?」(賽五十八6-7)有肢體把每天慣常買咖啡的金錢,和其他人共膳分享主恩;也有每週必在外飽餐一頓的夫婦,省下金錢購買食物券給有需要的人享用。我們也可以致電關心問候很久未有出席團契的肢體,與病患及困難中的弟兄姊妹一同祈禱交託等,嘗試從自己的需要轉看別人的需要。

預苦期期間,我們要透過省察、默想、禁食、愛心行動,好好預備自己的心靈,等候和記念主耶穌的受死與復活。






Pastor's Sharing
Reflections and Preparations for Lent
Rev Hung Kwai Fong

In the liturgical calendar, the Lenten season begins on the Wednesday which is the 46th day before Easter Sunday. That is Ash Wednesday, and it falls on March 6 this year. During the morning prayer on Ash Wednesday, ministers paint a cross of ash on the back of the hand of brothers and sisters, saying, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Be sure to steer clear of sin and be God's faithful servant." The ceremony is intended to make brothers and sisters face themselves as they are, and in humility and penance, cherish hope for the future.

Ash Wednesday reminds believers to feel remorse for sin in sackcloth and ashes just like the chosen Israelite people in the old days. Throughout the Lenten season, believers are to humble themselves before God, reflect on their sins, and seek God's mercy and forgiveness. God has promised: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite" (Isaiah 57:15). Believers are to refocus themselves, turning from their own needs to the will of God, and with devotional, prayer and personal reflection, align themselves with God and commit to Him in renewed consecration.

During Lent, some believers choose to fast to certain extents to seriously tackle their sins. They may even deal with lifestyles or obstacles that get in the way of a good relationship with God. This is to really experience how the Lord Jesus brings "freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free." They may be clearing before the Lord the bitterness or anger in their hearts, forfeiting some luxury items or certain matters. A sister tries to abstain from her favorite desserts for 46 days. Some others who are glued to their handsets turn off their mobile phones for an hour each evening to make room for quiet time. There are plenty of Scriptural material for reflection during Lent to help us get closer to God and walk with Him.

Besides personal reflection, Lent is also about actual actions of generosity and love. "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" (Isaiah 58:6-7) A believer uses the money for daily coffee to share meals with others. A couple spend their money for a big weekly feast on food coupons for the needy. We can also call up brothers and sisters who have been absent from fellowship meetings for a long time to express care and love. We can also visit and pray with the sick and those in adversity. All of this will turn our attention from our own needs to the needs of others.

During the Lenten season, whether through reflection, meditation, fasting or acts of love, let our hearts be fully prepared in anticipation of commemorating the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.