I have to admit, I never really understood what Lent was all about until recently. I knew that it involved giving something up for a certain amount of time as a show of faith or something like that, but I didn’t really get it. Coincidentally, I recently decided to stop drinking soda. I didn’t really do it for Lent, but it happened to be right around the same time and so I figured I would do a little research on the topic.
What I found was this:
Lent is a forty-day period before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday. We skip Sundays when we count the forty days, because Sundays commemorate the Resurrection. Lent begins on 17 February 2010 and ends on 3 April 2010, which is the day before Easter. In the Roman Catholic Church, Lent officially ends at sundown on 1 April (Holy Thursday), with the beginning of the mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. All churches that have a continuous history extending before AD 1500 observe Lent. The ancient church that wrote, collected, canonized, and propagated the New Testament also observed Lent, believing it to be a commandment from the apostles. (See The Apostolic Constitutions, Book V, Section III.)
Lent began in the apostolic era and was universal in the ancient church. For this reason, Lent is observed by the various Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and Anglican denominations, by Roman Catholics, and by Eastern Orthodox Churches.
This description was taken from http://www.kencollins.com/holy-04.htm. There is lots of interesting information at this website on Lent and other church holidays.
At this point in my life, I can see the value in taking some time to “withdraw into the wilderness” and back away from the things of this world to sort of “get centered” in Christ. I haven’t actually participated in any kind of fast for spiritual reasons inasmuch as I’ve given things up because I knew that I had become too dependent upon them. Only recently, since I’ve been doing lots of reconnecting with God, did this take on another dimension of meaning. Now, I can see where I had not only become too dependent upon certain things, but my dependence on them had drawn me further away from my spirituality. Now, you might look at this as an extreme inference, I mean, how can the amount of soda a person drinks translate into a lack of connection with the spirit? Well, if it becomes more of a fixation during your day than making sure we get in touch with God, then it has managed to break your spiritual connection.
Whether it be a cigarette, a drink, a piece of candy, meat, or worse…another person…if you rely on its existence in your life more than you do on God’s presence, the “thing” has become your Master. Still skeptical? Try giving up the one thing that you can’t seem to live without and see what happens. When you aren’t spending your time seeking out the “thing,” where do you go? What do you do? How do you feel?
Giving up soda hasn’t been much of a struggle for me lately. But for years, I depended so much on having a case of pop in the house at all times that I often couldn’t concentrate. I had to have one in my hand or nearby at all times. I would wake up and have a pop. I would eat and have a pop. I couldn’t leave the house without buying a pop. It was ridiculous. At one point, I was drinking at least two cases of Coke each week. All that time, what was I focused on? Myself. I was focused on myself and how I would feel if I couldn’t get another soda. How stupid. How selfish.
This isn’t to say that I couldn’t take care of my daily business and get my work done. But it did get in the way of any real spiritual concentration that I thought I had. The more I pray and seek out my purpose in this world, the less important the “things” become. It’s amazing how much more free you can feel when you aren’t arranging your life around your lunch break or snack times or for those who smoke, your smoke breaks.
I’m assuming that the spiritual importance of observing Lent wouldn’t necessarily be confined to doing so at a specific time during the year. Although it does have its meaning, I like to think that God would appreciate your efforts whenever you decide that He is more important than some “thing” in your life. But, again, this is just my interpretation.
“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”~Joel 2:12