This week’s topic is inspired by a phone conversation with my daughter, Kourtney. She shared with me one of the things she is going to do during Lent. She will be focusing more on face to face interaction and less on electronic communication. I think that’s a great idea and hope she keeps it up after Lent is over. I don’t want her to fast since she just found out she’s anemic.
Even if you don’t observe Lent, I think you’ll get something from this post. Actually only certain Christians observe Lent. Mainly the Anglican, Calvinist, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions observe Lent in one form or another. Some anabaptist and evangelical churches observe Lent, but most don’t. I’m going to share more about the history and observance of Lent, but if you want more detail, go to Wikipedia here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent or do an online search. Don’t expect to find consistent information since historical resources are mixed.
Lent began in the early Christian church as a time for new converts to go through preparation to become members of the sect and participate in communion. This involved instruction, prayer, fasting and giving to the poor. These things were done for preparation into a community that participated in them as a regular part of the practice of their faith not just during the preparation to be part of the community. During the preparation these observances were done with more intensity.
The observance of Lent became institutionalized with fasting being elevated above the other practices. Eventually strict fasting (mainly bread and water) was focused on one day each week with less restrictions on the other days. This evolved into the practices of not eating meat but fish on Fridays and /or giving up a “luxury” during Lent. Fish were considered to be a lower quality of food than meat. There is also a legend that a pope had a financial interest in the fishing industry. The fish industry does get a boost at this time of year. Just look at what the fast food chains are pushing. The practices of additional learning, praying, and giving to the poor have been relegated to a special worship service with offering on Wednesdays during Lent.
Growing up Lutheran I always thought there were forty days in Lent, and Sundays were not counted as part of Lent. I now find out that some denominations count Lent as having 46 days. It all depends on when you start and stop counting the days and if you include Sundays. So here is one more way the observance of Lent is not consistent across Christendom.
So why did I want you, no matter what your belief system is, to know all this? You may know some of what I’ve shared, but my guess is that your perception of Lent is what you see of the practices today. What do you think about them? I think they are mostly silly and superficial. What is really accomplished; who is really served by giving up soda for 40 days? I also know that many who observe Lent don’t have a clue as to why they are doing it other than it’s what their church has taught them to do.
I’d like you to take a look at the original reasons for lent and how the practices were part of the whole community’s observance of their faith. Can’t learning and examining your belief system help you come to terms with what you really believe and how you live out those beliefs? Isn’t prayer and/or meditation (looking beyond your immediate thoughts and emotions) an important part of that process? Who is helped by eating a better diet and consuming less of the world’s resources? And why shouldn’t we offer as much as possible to those who have less? Why shouldn’t these practices be observed throughout our lives?
(Oh, Just please don't give up reading my blog for Lent!)
Please stay on topic.