NEXT Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It is a time of preparation for the great Feast
NEXT Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It is a time of preparation for the great Feast of Easter (April 5 this year). It lasts 40 or 46 days if you count the Sundays.
It is a time of spiritual training; the hallmarks are fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Lent is an old Saxon word, meaning spring and growth.
The element of fasting is highlighted the day before. In this country we call it “pancake day”. Elsewhere the day is called “mardi gras“ (fat Tuesday), or “Carnevale“ (from the Latin, meaning farewell to meat).
The words tell us that eggs are used up and no longer eaten till Easter.
We have to remember that in former times the hens had stopped laying while we celebrate with chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday.
The Lenten fasts in former times forbade meat on most days, though not Sundays. The diet was bland but fish was allowed (protein) on Fridays.
The fasting, I like to think, was a group process. Every-one did it and so it was easy. The side effect became a kind of community “weight watching”.
Perhaps we should take a lead from our Muslim friends who celebrate Ramadan, a vigorous fast by the whole community for 30 days. Certainly the community would be fitter and we would benefit from fewer chocolates! We can also fast from alcohol, the glass of wine, the pint of beer, the vodka and tonic.
And how about giving up “just watching“ TV and instead read, or perhaps being selective and using informative channels?
The other two elements are important. Prayer, self-reflection, especially on the meaning and message of the words and message of the Lord, takes time and effort.
It does mean setting a little time aside each day for quiet reflection.
Most houses do have Bible somewhere. Dig it out and read just a little of one of the gospels and stop and think how it affects you. The habit and training are effective.
Almsgiving again with others brings out a great community sense. Comic Relief, Red Nose day, Christian Aid week are not only good for raising money for the less fortunate members of society but generate a wonderful spirit among people.
Really it’s all about helping us focus. What is life about? Whose way is one that brings peace and harmony both to ourselves and those we live with? It’s a way of discovering the way of the Lord.