Lent is coming, and it’s coming quick! It’ll be here before we know it.
As we embark on this journey to the cross, to the grave, and to the resurrection Easter Sunday, I would invite you to join the global church in the practice of fasting and “giving up” something for Lent.
The global church does BOTH, not one or the other, although Contemporary American protestant denominations have often gone to an either/or model for observing Lent in this way. If this is something you too would like to do, I would search your heart for the best option for you.
We know that God cares about the condition of your heart the MOST!
Over the years, modifications have been made by the Church to the Lenten observances of fasting and abstinence, making our practices not only simple but also easy. Ash Wednesday still marks the beginning of Lent, which lasts for 40 days, not including Sundays. The present fasting and abstinence laws are very simple: On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, many fast (having only one full meal a day with smaller snacks to keep up one’s strength) and abstain from meat; on the other Fridays of Lent, many abstain from meat.
In addition, people are encouraged “to give up something” for Lent as a sacrifice.
An interesting note is that technically on Sundays and solemnities like St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) and the Annunciation (March 25), one is exempt and can partake of whatever has been offered up for Lent!
…but I digress.
I was always taught that if you gave something up for the Lord, you need to see it through! Don’t act like a Pharisee looking for a loophole. Those “cheat days” are not for you to forsake the vow you made, but rather a way of giving yourself (you can think of it as God giving you) some grace in your adherence to the vow. You get a breather. Change your mentality about those days, and you’ll change the way you see the vow itself.
Really, there needs to be an emphasis placed on performing spiritual works, like serving the church, being faithful in attending services, making a weekly “holy hour”, and taking time for personal prayer and spiritual reading. Breaks can sometimes help us to focus on those things.
If you have some questions specifically about how you can serve, search your gifts for an opportunity. And if you don’t know what your gifts are, check out this article for some inspiration: http://www.enhymn.com/finding-honing-spiritual-gifts/
Although the practices may have evolved over the centuries, the focus remains the same: to repent of sin, to renew our faith and to prepare to celebrate joyfully the mysteries of our salvation.
Take some time before Ash Wednesday to think through what you would like to do for Lent, what commitment you’re going to make with yourself and with God.
May you prepare for Easter in health, in sacrifice, with humbleness and in the full assurance of God’s grace and goodness!