Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore believed Lent marked a time for personal transformation.
“Lent is a season of spiritual growth, a time for progressive unfoldment,” Fillmore wrote in Keep a True Lent, which was published posthumously in 1953.
The hardcover book drew material from Fillmore’s published and unpublished writings about Lent and provided 47 lessons for inspiration and guidance during the Lenten period. The original book and reiterations, including a 2005 paperback edition, are among the many treasured publications found in the Unity Archives collection.
During their married years Charles and Cora Fillmore, to whom he married in 1933, traveled extensively to give lectures on different topics, including Lent and Easter.
In 1937, the couple—when Charles was 83 years old—gave 60 talks about the Lenten-Easter season in Unity center classes in the Los Angeles, California, area. That same year, they also lectured on the topic in Northern California, including in Oakland, San Francisco, and Alameda, and on Easter Sunday spoke to a congregation of 1,300 in Portland, Oregon.
Some of those early teachings can also be found in The Unity Movement: Its Evolution and Spiritual Teachings, published in 2002. (Cora was a known collaborator on Charles’ later writings. Unity historians speculate she may have compiled his Lenten teachings for publication after his transition in 1948.)
Much of Fillmore’s instruction on Lent reflects mainstream understanding. He wrote that observing Lent involves fasting, which means “abstaining from.” Abstinence is overcoming human consciousness during the 40-day observance, he said. Fillmore called on his followers to abstain from errant thinking and to meditate upon spiritual Truth until the achievement of oneness with God.
Fillmore’s studies convinced him that the Western Church had observed this special season “since the First Century of Christianity.” The observance lasting 40 days became a recent practice following the example of Moses and Elijah, and to commemorate the 40 days of fasting and prayer that Jesus spent in the wilderness.
Fillmore said the six Sundays in Lent were not included in the 40 days because in the early church Sundays were “days of feast.” He observed, however, that the fifth Sunday in Lent known as Passion Sunday was so named because this day begins the last two weeks of Lent, commemorating the Passion experiences of Jesus following the Last Supper.
Fillmore noted that Easter Day, the day of resurrection, “is the awakening and raising to spiritual consciousness of every individual.”
As in Fillmore’s Keep a True Lent, the 2017 Unity Lenten booklet, Be Ye Transformed, offers a daily focus and message for guidance for the 40 days of Lent. It can be downloaded here.