Lent: The First Four Days

Lent Started on Wednesday and as I’ve done in previous years, I’m going to talk about it. If it’s not your thing, I get it, and I’ll see you sometime in the week, for my usual wittering.

So the first week of Lent.

I tend to assume that everyone knows what Lent is but it has been brought home to me this week, that this is not the case. So Lent is the period before Easter, it starts on Ash Wednesday and finishes on the Easter Saturday and it 40 days of fasting, praying and generally getting yourself really for Easter. I can heard you doing the maths now and saying that 22 February until 8 April is actually 46 days and you’d be right, the Sundays don’t count. In the Catholic Church, until the Second World War, fasting and abstinence during Lent was hardcore (only one meal a day, no meat, no eggs, no butter and generally no fun) and you had on day that you didn’t have to fast. Although given that in the northern hemisphere of the planet during most of the Church’s history, you’d be at the end of winter stores and slap in the middle of the ‘hungry gap’, chickens wouldn’t be laying and you’d be drying off cows for calving so there probably wouldn’t be much dairy available, so it makes a virtue of a necessity.

Nowadays, it’s not very hardcore although I understand that in the Catholic Church you’re supposed to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and if you’re over 14 not eat meat on Fridays. These are not things that I grew up doing, probably because my Mum didn’t see the point of them! But I did go to a Catholic school and we were encouraged to give something up, give to charity, think about Jesus a bit more and go to Mass more often during Lent. 

I’ve always thought of it as a time to think and act like the Christian I’d like to be, rather than the one I maybe am. So I have recently started to give things up but with the provision that I give the money I save to charity, usually the food bank. This year I have a regular sum that goes to my food bank so during Lent, I’ll put something in the food collection every time I shop (donations are at an all time low).  Spiritually, I’ll wonder through the Examen every day and Grace are reading through a book, which I do find useful. So it’s pretty low key. Be less greedy, more charitable, think about God more often.

One of the things that we don’t talk about is the amount of faith and hope required to go into Lent acting like this matters. Even if you’re not Christian, the end of winter is tough, we’re tired and it’s still dark in the mornings and early evening, we’ve not yet had that boost of extra sunlight and energy that makes summer easier. Right now, with everything going on in the world and the sheer effort of living through trying times (and I don’t know about anyone else but it feels like everything has been terrible every year for at least the last three), it’s hard to imagine that another kind of life is possible.

Obviously, I believe in a God that does care and that can take this six weeks and change me. So Lent is an act of hope, it’s a time to hope for better for me and better for everyone else. But dreams without a plan, are just wishes. So Lent is also a tiny plan.

So, this Lent, I’m offering God a tiny plan, to change me and the world a tiny bit or a huge amount. God can be funny like that.

About nicdempsey

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