The Blessed Fasts of Lent

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

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The above words begin the Ash Wednesday service which itself begins the season of Lent. Beyond a sense of roots (of being involved in an activity that Christians going back hundreds of years have practiced) what I particularly like about this season is the idea that “all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.” Lent is a channel of grace because it calls us as a community to place our relatively short lives in the context of eternity, to discern any way that we have gone astray, and to enter more fully into the mystery of Christ by disciplining our passions through fasting.

Recently, it has become clearer to me that sacrifice and fasting (both forms of giving up something) are really a matter of investing in God’s Kingdom. Jesus told us to lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven, and creatively responding to this idea, noted missionary, Jim Elliot, said, “he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” When we give up something for Lent what I imagine happens is that we are actually transferring something of current value into something of eternal value, and though this transference may not be a tit-for-tat reality, I do think there is a correlation between what we give up here and what we will receive in the coming age. One place where I see this happening is in how we are preparing ourselves to participate in the fullness of God’s Kingdom. When we sacrifice and fast in a discerning manner we are increasing our capacity for heavenly citizenship, which is to say that we are increasing our ability to engage and enjoy the realities of God’s Kingdom. This preparation is the heart of Lent, and it is this vision that inspires me to undertake the blessed fasts that this season calls us to.

So, how are you laying up treasures and preparing yourselves to engage in God’s Kingdom?

3 Responses to “The Blessed Fasts of Lent”

  1. Roger Green  

    I guess I’ve not so much about “giving up” something (though, in fact, I’ve given up caffeinated cold beverages) as much much as I’m into taking on something – specific prayers, Lenten devotionals and the like.

  2. Anthony Velez  

    Roger – Taking up something is a good point, and perhaps I will address this idea in a future post. In actual practice the giving up often leads to a taking up. I am skipping lunch for Lent and use the time that I would have been eating for prayer instead.

  3. Simon Jones  

    I’m not into this giving stuff up rubish! I’m becoming a Muslim so I can enjoy their month long religious eatathon where you have to eat everything very fast apparently. It’s called something like “ram it down”.

    From now on you can call me Ikba Muktaffta, or you can call me Al.