A number of friends are observing Lent this year, announcing their intention with a bit of humor but sincere just the same. For me, this week brings to mind things like the celebration of Carnival all around the world and the awesome Shrove Wednesday Pancake Dinner at St. Mark’s (my 12-year-old’s first introduction to another church – she said, “These guys are cool – do they always get pancakes?”). In popular culture, the observation of Lent has become a humorous excuse for avoiding something necessary, or a once-a-year excuse for setting another resolution we know we’ll break. However, Lent is being observed by many spiritual people of all faiths, and it’s a bit more serious than jokes on a sitcom.
Our word “Lent” comes from Old English for Springtime; this is fitting as the observation prepared Christians for the new Spring of rebirth accompanying Easter. The 40 days before Easter are marked by the faithful all around the world as a period to give up, or sacrifice, a specific habit or food item to show our devotion and intent. Giving up something with such a spiritual intent is also called fasting. And that word sacrifice always seems a little scary. Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith points out that “sacrifice” means “to make sacred” – so the motive for many is not to punish oneself or suffer, but to perform a difficult personal change for a month and a half to demonstrate devotion. We aren’t suffering so we can “get away with” a sin, we aren’t punishing ourselves because we feel guilty, but the intent of Lent is to wake up every day and do something personally meaningful, demonstrating our desire for a closer connection with our Creator.
I find that beautiful.
May your 40 days of Spring be blessed with devotion.