What is Lent? This is a question which has been on my mind for the last few days. I am glad of that, and I think it is healthy to ask this question as a prelude to the actual Lent period. I had to prepare a reading and commentary for a group of which I am part. As this took place on Shrove Tuesday, "doing" Lent seemed a no-brainer. The discussion went on to the subject of fasting. We (Christians in the West) don't seem to do it much, although we do give up chocolate or alcohol of something. Yet, other faiths, notably the Islamic faith, do fast.
This line of thought led me to this is a commentary from the Bishop of London:
Giving up chocolate, only to resume the habit in a great binge on Easter Day, does little good and even can fill us with an unhelpful sense of spiritual achievement. Fasting with prayer, however, is the fresh and ancient discipline of the Church, which is being rediscovered in our own day. Fasting with prayer can make us more profoundly aware of good as a gift from divine love rather than fuel for insatiable craving. Joy and a greater sense of freedom should be amongst the fruits that follow.
...Lent is the time for fasting and prayer, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays in solidarity with the whole Christian community living and departed. This communal effort saves us from thinking of our own ascetic heroism.
In the past, my lenten activities have been confined to the Christian Aid's Count your blessings. It is a wonderful sheet which gives you a little theme to pray on each day, and a way of totting up some money to give to good causes. For example, today's item is:
Every year 1.6 million of the world's poorest people die from respiratory infections, aggravated by smoke from open fires. Give 5p for every radiator in your home and 10p for every fireplace
This year I will am thinking about expanding my lenten activities. As a start, I have made a momentous decision to do something I have never tried before. I have decided to follow my father's example and abstain from alcohol for lent. So far this has lasted all day today!
By the way, Wikipedia defines Lent as:
In Western Christianity, Lent is the period (or season) from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. In Eastern Christianity, the period before Easter is known as Great Lent to distinguish it from the Winter Lent, or Advent (known in Greek as the "Great Fast" and "Nativity Fast", respectively).