LENT AND MARDI GRAS But the Word Lent isnt in the Bible! The word Bible isn't in the Bible, either! So what we're really asking is the origin of the name. Originally, Lent was nothing more than the English name of the season between winter and summer, the season when the snow melts and the flowers bloom. German and Dutch have the same word, but with slightly different spelling. In German, Lenz means
spring in poetry. In Dutch, the word lente never changed its meaning. It is still the name of the season between winter and summer, and it is still used in everyday life. The church observance took place during the season of lent. In England, Lent came to mean the observance rather than the season, leaving the season without a name. Instead of saying stupid things like Lent happens during lent, English-speaking people
invented the word spring. Today, instead of calling the seasons winter, lent, and summer, we call them winter, spring, and summer. We use Lent instead of spring when we refer to the church season. 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. In the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial for the annual commemoration during
Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to the Synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan. Thus, Lent
is described as being forty days long, though different denominations calculate the forty days differently. This practice is common to much of Christendom, being celebrated by Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Anglicans. Lent is increasingly being observed by other denominations as well, even such groups that have historically
ignored Lent, such as Baptists and Mennonites. We talk about imitating Christ, but we only want to imitate whatever He did that fits our tastes. Some of us are deeply concerned about social issues, so we seek to imitate Christ in His concern for the poor and needy. We run homeless shelters and soup kitchens; our churches house AIDS clinics and AA meetings. We rent our building to a start-up
congregation, and we have joint services with a different denomination. Some of us are deeply concerned about moral issues, so we seek to imitate Christ in His confrontations with the Pharisees. We picket porno shops and demonstrate about abortion; our churches work with political candidates. We hold youth rallies and family nights to build good values and we hold alternative celebrations for teens
where no alcohol is served. Some of us are deeply concerned with doctrinal orthodoxy, so we seek to imitate Christ in His teachings. We give classes in exegetics and Biblical languages; our churches host guest speakers on archaeology and hold public seminars on prophecy. We host trips to the Holy Land and we educate each member on every doctrinal point. But how many of us retreat to a mountain to pray for
a whole night just because we have important decisions to make the next morning? How many of us fast, as Jesus fasted, as an adjunct to prayer? Jesus never ran a homeless shelter. He never picketed for new legislation. He didnt start study groups on end-time events. But He prayed all night on the mountain, and once He fasted for forty days. Are we truly imitating Christ, or are we rationalizing our behavior?
When Jesus taught us how to pray, He didnt say, If you elect to pray, do it this way and when He taught about fasting, He didnt say, If you elect to fast, do it this way Similarly, Jesus told us that when we fast (not if) we are not to make a show of it, like hypocrites do. A fast is different from a hunger strike: a fast is a personal act of devotion to God, while a hunger strike is a public act most often used to shine a spotlight on
injustice. A fast is also different from anorexia nervosa: it is disciplined diet, not total abstention from food. During a religious fast, you still eat, you just abstain from certain foodstuffs. Traditionally, people have fasted by eliminating luxury items from their diets, such as meats. You could have a fast that consists of eating whatever you want, but drinking only water. Orthodox Christians recognize five levels of fasting: Abstaining from meat Abstaining from meat, eggs, milk, butter, and cheese
Abstaining from meat, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, and fish Abstaining from meat, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, fish, oil, and wine Abstaining from all foods and beverages except bread, water, juices, honey, and nuts. Note that the fifth and strictest level comes close to describing John the Baptists diet, and it is may very well have been the fast that Jesus undertook for forty days in the wildernessexcept for the bread. (Christians reenact this retreat during Lent.)
To fast, just omit an item or two from your diet something that you would normally eat during the course of the day. Every time you get an appetite for those items, you will be reminded of your fast and that will remind you of the reason for your fast, and you can pray instead of eating. This can have immense spiritual benefit. You are simply using your belly as a spiritual snooze-alarm.
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