With Ash Wednesday occurring on St. VaLENTine’s day yesterday (February 14, 2018) I was reflecting on the Lenten season. What is Lent? Have you ever wondered? Or perhaps you knew and have not thought about it for a while. And not only what is Lent, but what is the point and/or utility of it? Does it still pertain to us in 2018?
Lent is a period, a season, of the forty days prior to Easter, not including Sundays. Traditionally it is a time to be a little more intentional about considering the life, example, teachings, sacrifice, and death of Jesus. It was also the time of preparation in the first few centuries of the church for people who desired to join the church and be baptized to learn about (catechism) what it means to follow Jesus before they made the commitment. Observing Lent then and still today primes believers to have a fuller experience of Easter and the hope, joy and newness of possibilities Resurrection offers.
So, what about the whole “giving something up for Lent” thing? The giving something up (like chocolate, television, coffee, or something else we enjoy), or conversely taking on an additional thing (like sending a note a day of encouragement, doing a random act of kindness, creating a time for prayer or Bible reading) is to remind us daily when we miss what we gave up, or need to do what we have taken on, of the sacrifice and love of Jesus. When we feel the pangs of yearning for that which we gave up, or the urge to blow off what we have taken on, we are reminded that what Jesus did was not easy either. And we might just appreciate it a bit more.
Is there utility in Lent for us today? I think so. It positions us to experience the events of Holy Week (Palm / Passion Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter) in a way more impactful on our spirits. I have a love hate relationship with the Lenten discipline of giving something up. I love how it reminds me more regularly of Jesus and His love, but I hate doing without. There it is in a nutshell! The utility of Lenten disciplines.
I invite you to consider giving something up or taking something on (or both) for the season of Lent. Do not make it too difficult or it will be doomed from the start. But do not make it something you should do anyway or too easy (like me giving up licorice or Herring [I hate both]) or it will not have the sacrificial meaning. And if you forget or fall away, do not condemn yourself, but get back on course for the remainder.
I would love to hear about your journey here, Facebook or email.