This year, Lent takes place for the seven weeks between Wednesday, February 18 and Saturday, April 4. There are 3 reasons for why I participate in Lent.
Lent is public yet simultaneously exclusive, private, yet simultaneously communal.
I love a good paradox, and Lent seems to be that. Although the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter are more commercial, Lent has not become that way, and frankly, probably won’t. A season devoted to giving things up? How can you capitalize on that*. Therefore, I don’t have to listen to ads for Lent, buy special products for Lent, and start complaining about Lent decorations in late January. More on Lent decorations in a minute. However, Lent isn’t so foreign, at least in Catholic Massachusetts, that people don’t know what it is. Nevertheless, few people care about Lent who aren’t fellow followers of Jesus, or practice any of the traditions. Also, the significance lies both in personal change and devotion, as well as a communal acknowledgement of our collective necessity for self-discipline, change, and reliance on God. Therefore, I find it public, but simultaneously exclusive; private, yet simultaneously communal.
Lent is a time for reflection.
This is a habit I’m diligently enfolding in my life with intent for behavioral change and spiritual growth. It also means a few more lines to my check charts. While reading in Mala Power’s 1985 book Follow the Year with Ethan I loved these lines,
The first day of Lent is named Ash Wednesday. In nature many things have to wither and decay and turn to ash before new life can spring forth. Early Christians held that before each person can experience the new life of Easter Time, he has to let some of his faults and bad habits die away and thus ‘turn to ash.’
Which faults and bad habits will I let die?
Lent is a time of being intentional.
I acknowledge all that I have, and give up some of it for a season. I’ll be giving up taking baths (but will not give up ‘bathing,’ don’t worry), an activity I love, and instead donating money to Charity:Water in remembrance that what I often take for granted, others don’t have at all. I also want to kick some of my worst eating habits, such as eating after 8pm by re-framing it as “fasting after 8pm” and like many others, eliminate sweet things from my diet in favor of simpler food.
Another, harder change, one of the aforementioned bad habits and faults, is that I would like to stop be-laboring the point with my husband. I’m not a nag, really, but when I latch onto a thing I wish he would change, it’s as though I’m attempting to prove the folly of his ways for a dissertation. One hundred pages seems like just enough space to cover why leaving socks on the floor is the worst, most despicable, trait in the history of mankind. That is, until you get me going about leaving tupperware in his workbag. I’d like to replace this negative pastime with a more positive one – like doing one special thing daily, such as actually taking my fair share of turns putting our son to bed.
Will I decorate for Lent? Likely a few touchstones will make their way into our house. A few years ago I created these items and wrote a blog post about it. Perhaps adding a few pages to my altered book will help me spend time in reflection. Searching for “folk art Jesus” and “Mixed Media Icons” have inspired me to try and fill what is currently a void. If you haven’t heard about creating calendar nuns for Lent, you might enjoy this cute, brief, story and craft. This website also details traditions for Ash Wednesday, many of which are family friendly, and other Lenten customs.
Will you celebrate Lent? Practice Reflection? Give up anything?
My brother-in-law has written several posts about Lent that I highly recommend reading.
*My pet theory about MacDonalds filet-o-fish sandwich is that it’s designed for the 7 weeks Catholics can’t chow down on burgers. I don’t want to know if that’s true.