A little late but I finally found the motivation to type up my lent blog.It seems a little outdated now to fast for lent and I have not met anyone who takes it seriously ever but fasting during lent has a long and sometimes complex history.
The Oxford advanced learners dictionary’s definition of lent is as follows: Noun, in the Christian Church, the period of 40 days from Ash Wednesday to the day before Easter, during which some Christians give up some type of food or activity that they enjoy in memory of Christ’s suffering.
At times this simplified definition and is often the best one however I want to delve a little deeper, starting at the beginning.
- Shrove Tuesday: The day for using up ingredients and has become synonymous with pancakes. Pancakes are the best and cheapest way of using up all dairy and fat products in the household with the only addition being flour. From the earliest times the list of foods included in lent fasting were meats, dairy, fish, eggs, and milky foods. This often led to people eating only one meal of bread and beer a day. during the later medieval periods it was possible to “donate” a certain amount of money to the church as a form of penance in exchange for the use of certain fats and dairy products during lent.
- The reason for lent and the number 40: “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,where for forty days he was tempted by the devil” [Luke 4:1-2]. Lent generally lasts for 40 days and for 40 nights and is supposed to be a reflection of the 40 days and nights that Jesus spent fasting in the desert. During this time he was continuously tempted by the devil, the first temptation he faced was with food. The number 40 also seems to be a recurrent theme in the bible. For example, the 40 day flood in Genesis the 40 year period of the Hebrews wondering the wilderness before reaching the promised land, the 40 day fast undertaken by Moses before receiving the 10 commandments and the 40 day period given by Jonah to the people of Ninevah to repent for their sins.
- Common exceptions: The previous lengthy and strict fast is no longer imposed by the Church any more. Instead lent is now seen as a time of reflection and charity. Now many people give up one food item or activity they enjoy, take up a new activity that benefits themselves or their community, pray and undertake more charity work, or do a combination of several of these things. Sundays are seen as a mini celebration in which the lent fast need not be observed (although many still do) and if you are an Irish catholic St Patrick’s day can also be considered as a non fast day.
Many people are surprised that I still fast for lent, I used to be a Church of England Christian but converted to Paganism in my early 20s. For me the spiritual meaning of lent has never faded. I always learn a little more about myself during my fast, particularly when self restraint is concerned. For me it is good for many reasons to fast and to count your blessings in order to appreciate what you already have and to let go of the things that really don’t matter. This is why I fast and why fasting, in some form, can still be found in many religions around the globe.
Whatever you are doing for the lent period, and whatever path you have chosen to follow I do hope you are all blessed.
Feel free to post your thoughts or questions below.