by Fr. Benjamin Wall
Lent is an ancient, universal Christian season whose disciplines have been practiced across various Christian traditions by Christians around the world since the early centuries of the church.
Lent runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday and includes a forty day period before Easter that in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness.
The most important reason to practice Lent is to grow in the faith of Jesus Christ; to seek after him with the hope of becoming more and more like him. Lent is a time of intentional discipleship under Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Lent also offers Christians the opportunity to collectively grow in faith together, and thus, grow closer to one another as the “communion of Saints,” the one holy catholic and apostolic Church to which we have been called and in which we are placed. In so many ways, Lent offers us the opportunity for us to journey together in putting to death the sinful deeds of the flesh and grow in faith in learning ways to share in Christ’s resurrection power.
Historically, the custom is to mark the season of Lent by giving up some things and taking on others. Both can serve to mark the season as a holy time of preparation.
Greg Goebel, Anglican Pastor provides a few helpful suggestions to guide us as we discern things we can give up that orient our lives away from sin and toward Jesus. He suggests:
- Give up something reasonable. I don’t mean easy. I mean reasonable.
- Give up something that you will notice. You will want it, but it won’t be there. Something you will probably regret giving up about two weeks in.
- Give up something that you don’t have to give up. Lent is not a diet.
- There are also things that are bad for us even in small quantities, like tobacco. Giving something up for Lent is giving up something that is normally good for you.
- So feel free to give up cake or beer or candy or coffee because, in moderation, these aren’t usually bad for someone. Give up television watching or a favorite social media app. It is often recommended that you not give up something you “were going to give up anyway.”
- Other than that, just pick something and stick with it. Don’t forget to reflect and pray about the experience.
- And don’t forget to also “give something away.” Giving away is the twin of “giving something up.” Give away your time, money, and/or resources to serve others sacrificially.
Some things added during Lent are: daily Bible reading, fasting on Fridays, times of prayer, study related in some way to Christian spirituality. Lent is also an especially appropriate time for participating in the sacrament of confession. While confession to a priest is not required to receive Gods forgiveness, it can be a meaningful rite of reconciliation to God.
Finally, as we journey together through Lent 2019, it is my prayer that we will grow in humility and begin to further recognize who we are in relationship to the living God. May God reveal to us our mortality, sin, and limitations. May the Holy Spirit reveal to us our personal and corporate blind spots. May our hunger pains, headaches and failures during Lent become living reminders of our great need for the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. May God loosen our unhealthy attachments to creation (including food, drink, and money) so that we may enjoy a deeper bond to the Creator. May the Holy Spirit reveal and correct the incompatibility between our commitment to Jesus and our dabbling in idolatry. May we better learn to be the people of God who confess our sins and thereby take hold of the forgiveness that is ours in the Gospel. And as we give ourselves to Jesus Christ in our temporal sufferings during Lent, may our glorious Lord, Jesus Christ, supply us with a lasting spiritual overflow and the consolation of the Holy Spirit. May the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection become for us a window into the new creation and secure in us the quiet confidence of our identity as children of God. May we learn to draw our strength from the life of God and the bonds of affection with our fellow Christians.