Leap Year occurs every four years in order to synchronize our calendar year with the solar year, i.e., the length of time it takes the earth to orbit the sun—roughly 365¼ days. “Leaping” is mentioned in Sacred Scripture several times in relationship to being in the presence of God. Among the most common passages from the Old Testament is 2 Samuel 6:16, where we are told that King David leaped and danced before The Lord. The most prominent New Testament passage is Luke 1:41, the scene of the Visitation when John the Baptist leaped in the womb of his mother when Mary, the pregnant virgin of Nazareth, arrived. John was the first person to announce the presence of Christ, God-in-the-flesh, and he did so by leaping. In both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, leaping is associated with rejoicing.
My recommendation for how we should enter Lent this year is also by leaping. Though a physical leap might be too much to ask of some of us, we can still offer a leap that is spiritual. The Catholic Church refers to Lent as the Season of Joy, focusing upon the paschal mysteries of Christ as the means of our salvation. “Joy” can serve as an acronym for “Jesus-others-yourself,” the three most important relationships we have. They line up with the three hallmarks of Lent: prayer, alms-giving, and fasting. Our Lenten Season becomes more joyous when it strengthens our relationship with Christ through regular conversation and better listening, with others through charitable outreach and acts of service, and with ourselves through giving up things we don’t need or that aren’t good for us so that we can find room for better things. This attitude of leaping for j-o-y might help us attain a better sense of this ecclesial season and the seasons of our lives.
Lent is essentially a tithe. “Tithing” is a biblical concept that refers to a tenth portion of what we possess. We, as a church, give a tenth of our days to The Lord each year—just as we are asked to offer a tenth of our resources to advance God’s mission and a tenth of our work to doing the work of God. The 40 Days of Lent are closer to 36.5 days. If you take time to calculate it, the six weeks of Lent, plus the four days between Ash Wednesday and the First Sunday, minus the six Sundays (which are “Little Easters” and, therefore, disqualified as Lenten days), and minus the three and a half days of The Triduum (the triple day that occurs during Holy Week), you will reach the sum that is a tenth portion of our calendar year. Though I don’t think Our Lord or Christianity wants us to get caught up in the mathematics, the Lenten tithe does help us synchronize our orbit around the Son of God and point us toward matters of great importance.
As we enter into Lent this week, the same week that puts the leap in Leap Year, we ought to consider the leaping, and accompanying rejoicing, that has taken place in the presence of God for several thousand years. We can participate in a spiritual leap of our own as we encounter many opportunities to rejoice through these forty days in The Lord’s presence.