Growing up in a Baptist tradition, the Lenten season was no emphasized. We were supposed to be deprived all the time, sinful nature and all, not just for 40 days per year. Later, getting to know some friends who came from Catholic traditions, I could not figure out the indulger-yourself with Carnival-Fat-Tuesday thing, then turn around to give up… chocolate. When did Jesus every talk about chocolate?
Okay, I get it. Fasting as a religious piety ritual goes back a few millenium ?? to Jewish days of fasting for various atonements, victories and defeats. Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert before going to Jerusalem. These translated into early Christian rituals, etc. Now, while some religions continue to have periods of fasting, Christians give up certain things for Lent.
Fasting usually was linked to prayer, as “fasting and prayer”. Therefore a day of fasting (e.g. not eating) was supposed to be a day of prayer. The item given up, was to eliminate a distraction, to allow for reflection, contemplation, and supplication. Giving up chocolate was supposed to be followed by a prayerful attitude of closer connection with God.
But this begs the question of whether the give-it-up is just to substitute the time not spent opening up the candy wrapper and munching the snack with a rote or spontaneous prayerful thought. Then, back to the day as usual.
Might Lent be more about take-it-on than give-it-up?
This… is the fasting that I wish
releasing those bound unjustly
untying the tongs of the yoke
setting free the oppressed
breaking every yoke
sharing your bread with the hungry
sheltering the oppressed and hungry
clothing the naked when you see them
and not turning your back on your own
If you have not decided what the give-up for Lent, consider what you might do as an act of prayer. Take-it-on.
Check in on a neighbor. Run an errand for someone. Give someone a ride who does not drive. Help a student with her or his homework. Go for a walk with a friend. Prepare your garden for spring planting. Clean out the winter clothes that you do not plan to wear next year and donate them. Put on the tea or coffee pot and invite someone over.
Instead of Lent-It-Go, Go-Get-Lent.
And, keep a some chocolate bars ready to give out alone the way.
Covid19 Update on Lent…
I wrote this piece a couple of weeks ago, but then had visitors, etc. so I was not on social media much to post it.
Now, many folks are forgoing all sorts of stuff outside of their home to reduce the risk of contracting or becoming a vector for Covid19. Might there be a Lenten possibility here?
While working or studying at home, free time seems to be limited to one’s apartment or house or yard. One could do lots of prayerful-attitude tasks during those extra free time hours not spent driving about or doing social/community tasks. A good deep cleaning certainly extends the Fat-Tuesday concept.
And, one mode of prayer is reading and contemplating. The Christian scriptures contains 21 epistles. Some are only a few pages long. But, even the longer ones could be read in about 1 – 2 hours in one sitting. Consider that when these letters were received by a church, the members sat down and read the letters together, in one sitting.
There you go, 21 letters, 27 days to Easter. Pick your contemplative time each day. Read one epistle, in one sitting, maybe even out loud.
And, hold onto the chocolate bar for a post-Covid19 celebration.