So, show of hands… how many of you are doing the whole “Lent” thing?
I’m sorry. Let me rephrase that. How many of you are observing Lent? (Not “Lent”, not “thing”, and you can’t really “do” Lent … although if you’re observing it I suppose you are “doing” it, in a round about way. I’m sorry. I’m not Catholic. I don’t really know how these things work or are phrased, and I pretty much just make things up as I go along, so you’ll have to forgive me… or not… maybe you gave up forgiveness for Lent, who knows? Although, I’m fairly certain that would kind of negate the whole idea behind Lent so… forgive me anyway?)
I’m sorry… what were we talking about? My stream of consciousness occasionally diverges into yellow woods from time to time…
Okay. Yes. Lent.
Let me tell you something about Lent: I know absolutely zip, zero, zilch about it. Seriously. Unless you grow up Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian (Which, by the way, are those two interchangeable? Are they like, one in the same?) Lutheran, Presbyterian or Methodist, you don’t even get a basic crash course in Lent. I always thought it was something “those people” did. (And when I say “those people” I mean people talked about them in hushed, solemn tones knowing they were sinners destined to burn in hell for all of eternity. Did I mention the church I grew up in was slightly crazy? Did I mention some Evangelical/Petacostal/Charismatic churches are not entirely accepting of other denominations? Because… all of the above.) Anyway, so I basically grew up knowing nothing about Lent, and figuring it was some crazy custom the crazy-traditional churches had cooked up for the heck of it.
So, it wasn’t until I had started working at a Catholic school that I was first exposed to the wonders of the Lenten season.
But what exactly is Lent? Well according to Catholic.org…
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
And then Ash Wednesday is followed by Palm Sunday which is followed by Holy week which is followed by Holy Thursday which is followed by Good Friday and then everything is all wrapped up on Easter Sunday. Whew! Did you get all that? If not, read it again, because I’m not repeating myself.
ANYWAY, other than some quick mention about the beginning of the Lenten season, a short observation of Palm Sunday and Good Friday, and then a big to-do on Easter Sunday… the whole Lenten season wasn’t really emphasized in the church I grew up in. So, when I was teaching at a Catholic School it was really fascinating for me to be a part of this huge celebration. (Which is totally weird because you would think being adherents of the same religion we would share the same celebrations and customs, but apparently not.) I loved everything about the Lenten season. Mainly because it really got me thinking about the Easter season and what it’s all about. The tradition, the pomp and circumstance, and the celebration of the Lenten season was refreshing, exciting and inspiring. And throughout all of it, all I could think was, “Why don’t ALL churches do this?! This is fan-freaking-TASTIC!” (Apparently, I am a very enthusiastic Christian…) It was completely new to me and I thought it was great.
Fast forward a couple of years when I am no longer working at a Catholic school and my attendance at church has been few and far between (Not because I don’t love Jesus… but because getting out of bed that early on a SUNDAY in the midst of this much snow and cold is probably not going to happen. Yeah… no.) and I actually MISS the observation of Lent. I know! Who knew?!
For me, the Lenten season was important because it took the focus off yourself and put it on concerns of deeper significance. It was a time for reflection and re-evaluation; a time for taking stock of our lives and figuring out what’s really important; a time for being less selfish and being more self-less. Rather than going to church and hearing some warm-fuzzy, feel-good sermon about “Jesus loves you”, it forced you to stop, think and re-assess your life. So, even though I’m not traditionally a Lenten observer, this year I really would really like to be.
The thing is… I’m not exactly sure how it works. Do I give up something for Lent? (Short answer: Yes.) How long do I give it up for? (Short answer: 40 Days.) Does it have to be food or beverage related (Short answer: Not necessarily) because… I really love my food and beverage. (Really, Annie? Way to go on the whole “self-less” thing…) Since Lent officially started yesterday, I should really get cracking on this. Also, I need to find something to “give up”… something that will help me to reflect and re-evaluate… not something frivolous and silly, like I’m making a personal challenge or bet with myself. And lastly, the more I research about Lent, the more I find that many Protestant churches are strictly opposed to it, as they view it as a “means of salvation”, which is not what Lent-observing churches profess to believe at all…
Anyway… thoughts on the whole season of Lent? Are you giving anything up? If so, what? Are you opposed to the observation of Lent? If so, why? Seriously, I’d love to hear some thoughts on the matter. I find it all endlessly fascinating.
Some excellent information regarding Lent: