Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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.

Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

12 thoughts on “Do You Lent?

  1. I tried giving up coffee last year and was a total zombie the whole time. I couldn’t read or I would fall asleep. I think something else is better for me. Deana is giving up sweets. Didn’t even want a Birthday cake. I don’t think I can do that either. I think catholics give up red meat. Maybe we should eat a lot of fish. Well, good luck on whatever you try to do. I think the main thing is getting more time to read my Bible and pray. Maybe less time on the computer. Thanks Susan for sharing. Love and God Bless You, Pat

    • Pat,
      Here’s what I read: “The foods traditionally abstained from are meat and dairy products, wine and oil. (According to some traditions, only olive oil is abstained from; in others, all vegetable oils.) Since strict fasting is canonically forbidden on the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day, wine and oil are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays.”

      I saw a 40 day Bible study the other day. For me, rather than giving something up, I think I’ll dedicate myself to more study.
      BTW: I totally understand about coffee. I don’t think I could do it. But I wouldn’t want to do sweets, either.

  2. I’m not going all hog wild I am just giving up donuts. I pray already alot, because of all the things going on in my life and my friends life. I believe in prayer, I’m not ready to totally do the whole lent thing, in fact it’s been awhile since I’ve gone to Church. I keep having good intentions to go back, but never do.

    • Gay,
      It’s easy to get into the habit of not going, isn’t it? But I’m so blessed when I go and join with others in corporate worship. Wow, that sounds cold, doesn’t it?
      But it’s not. Singing praises to our Savior with other Christians is beautiful. We have communion each week (Acts 20:7) which is another of those things I love, but just can’t do by myself. And being with other Christians, seeing them and experiencing their joys as well as trials, etc. is so important and helps me when I have problems to get through, myself.
      I hope you can get back into church. You’re always welcome to come worship with me back in C-Town!

  3. I do practice lent and have always done so as a *Methodist, but more so on my own. It is a time that I give up something that I frequently have. This year, coffee. Every time I reach for a cup reminds me of why I’m doing it, concentrating on Jesus and using it as a time to become closer in prayer. While I do enjoy going to the services throughout lent, I don’t always get to. It is more a personal thing to me.

    • That’s interesting, Jess. Each time I drink coffee, I enjoy it so much, I thank Jesus for blessing us with it.
      It’s wonderful that you observe Lent. Are children taught to observe it in the Methodist Church or is it just adults? (I wonder that about the Catholic Church, too.)

      • coffee is wonderful, i can see why you are thankful for it. 🙂 my goal each lent is to give up something that i really have a habit of, or really enjoy. in no way do i think we experience the extent of fasting Jesus did, but i do my best to relate.

        as children we learned about it in sunday school, and children above the nursery age were always attending church with the adults. we were taught it was a time to repent and be clean. we weren’t encouraged as much as the adults to participate, but it was when we felt we were ready to. my methodist church never felt as if anything was pushed on us… i remember observing the adults worshiping more than anything as examples. i do remember my first time observing lent. i was late elementary (maybe middle?) school age, and gave up pop. haha… it was hard! 🙂

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