Grace and Peace to you.
Lent is a season of repentance, marked by the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As a form of fasting, people often went without rich foods during Lent, so on the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, they would use up all their milk, butter and eggs by making “fat” foods,” like pancakes. Hence today is sometimes known as “Fat Tuesday” or “Pancake Day.”
We often pick something to “give up” for Lent. I don’t plan to give up milk and eggs. But I do intend to fast, and to do without sweets, snacks and unnecessary food, and to avoid eating in a hurry or standing up or while doing something else. The point is not to deprive myself, or make my life uncomfortable. The point is to be mindful. How much do I eat without needing to, just out of habit or “because it’s there?” How much do I eat without even thinking, without enjoying, without appreciating? By eating mindfully during Lent I don’t expect to be miserable. I expect to enjoy my food even more.
The reason for repentance is God’s judgment. If you think God’s judgment is condemnation and punishment, then I suppose Lent should be pure misery. But God’s judgment is simply the loving truth about us. So Lent is a time to become more mindful, to see ourselves more clearly, to and to realign ourselves with God’s love. Fasting is a practice that helps us expose and transcend our usual desires and attachments, and focus beyond ourselves and our immediate wants. But fasting goes along with prayer and almsgiving. Fasting without mindfulness and generosity is not a real fast. The point is not to improve self-discipline, but to deepen our love.
So besides “giving up” something, observe Lent by committing to a deeper practice of prayer or sharing. While I’m fasting, I’ll be writing letters on behalf of the poor through Bread for the World, and on behalf of prisoners of conscience through Amnesty International. The point of Lent is to move beyond our self-contained-ness and become more fully connected with God and others in love. Choose a way to observe Lent that helps you become more mindful, and more in harmony with God’s love for you and for others. You will likely experience in it a rebirth that will prepare you well for the miracle of Easter. And you’ll enjoy those Easter eggs all the more.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes