Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Do You Lent?

 The Spess crew, at least my section of it, has never been Lent observers. It’s not something that’s talked about in the Christian Church, unless you’re wearing black and have a problem. No, wait. That’s lint. Never mind.

I’ve heard about the Holy Week preparation, but I’ve never known what it was.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve known a lot of people who wanted to celebrate Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday, they just didn’t go through the Lent part.

So one year, Sister Debbie decided to give up coffee for Lent.

“Do WHAT?” (I always have such a kind way of responding.)

She gave me her sweet nun’s smile. (I wonder what’s going on in her head when she does that.) “I’m giving up coffee for Lent.”

That stopped me. Totally. Lent? Give up something for it? Was it a sin for a Christian to give up something for Lent? No. Probably not.

I blamed it on her friends. She must have a buddy who’d influenced her, which was a shock in itself. Even as a kid, Deb never was one to follow others. Leave it to her to wait until she was full grown, then choose a holy path to follow someone down. 😉

So after a couple of years of observing her observe Lent, I decided to look it up. (Notice I didn’t say I’m going for it.)

The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial.

Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This event, along with its pious customs are observed by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, as well as some Baptists and Mennonites. 

Baptists? I didn’t grow up with very many Catholics or Lutherans, but I’ve had lots of Baptist friends, and never head them speak of Lent. What’s up with that?

Next, I looked up Great Lent. It, apparently, is observed by Orthodox Catholics. Now I have to look up what Orthodox means. Just a minute.

The word orthodox, from Greek orthos (“right”, “true”, “straight”) + doxa (“opinion” or “belief”, related to dokein, “to think”),[1] is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion.

When I read about Great Lent, something warmed my heart.

Orthodox Christians are expected to pay closer attention to and increase their private prayer. According to Orthodox theology, when asceticism (fasting, etc) is increased, prayer must be increased also.

Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? If you’re going through the pain of fasting (as Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness just before He started His ministry) the only reason to do it is to enhance your prayer life.

We had a professor at Bible College who’d prayed and fasted for forty days. I never heard him speak of it, but others did and they shared what he’d done.

I always imagined he took the forty days during the summer, when he wasn’t teaching, to go someplace by himself so, like Jesus, he could fast and pray and be alone with the Lord.

And yes, I could see it in his life. Even though he was never my professor, I enteracted with him on campus and heard him speak in chapel. There really was something different about him.

If I’m reading this right, Lent is the preparation for Holy Week. Not just giving something up, but a time to get closer to the Lord and get ready for Resurrection Sunday.

Anybody? Am I right?

How about you? Do you observe Lent? Do you give something up or fast during that time? I think I’d like to learn more.

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