Skip to comments.Why You Should Celebrate Lent
Posted on 03/01/2006 9:54:06 AM PST by laney
For many years, I never associated the celebration of Mardi Gras with any sort of religious observance. After all, the news footage of hordes of people in the streets in various levels of drunkenness doesnt seem to depict holiness. Growing up in a Protestant denomination that did not observe Lent, the whole holiday just seemed to be an excuse for public intoxication.
For many of the people celebrating in New Orleans and other parts of the world, that is all that the celebration represents.
But as Ive grown older, I have learned of the beautiful traditions of some of the other denominations. For Catholics and some Protestant denominations, Mardi Gras (literally translated "Fat Tuesday") is the final day before the observance of Lent. Mardi Gras didnt start out as a time of drunken revelry. It originated just as a final opportunity to feast prior to the fasting of Lent.
While Mardi Gras has gained a reputation for its hedonism, Lent is known as a time of prayer, repentance, and recommitment leading up to the celebration of Christs resurrection at Easter. Starting with Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras, and culminating 40 days later, Lent is a time of spiritual preparation for the most important religious holiday for believers. (Sundays are not included in the observance of Lent as Sundays are supposed to be holy days of celebrating the resurrection for all Christians.)
Traditionally, observers participated in Lent by abstaining from certain types of food (particularly meat, eggs, and milk products). In some traditions, partial fasts were observed where participants would eat only one meal on certain days. Many who observe Lent today are not as strict. Often they choose to abstain from a particular food or particular behavior (such as watching TV, for example) during Lent. The idea is to abstain from pleasurable activities and instead use the time and energy usually spent in those activities to focus on taking stock of ones own spiritual condition and repenting for spiritual failures. This idea seems foreign even to many Christians in our culture of immediate gratification.
The 40 days of Lent are also a time of grief. All Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ each Easter. Unfortunately, we often dont spend much time grieving over our sins that caused the brutal execution of Christ. This tradition begins with the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Ashes are put on believers foreheads on Ash Wednesday as a sign of repentance. The practice of putting ashes on ones head is an ancient sign of mourning that was often done at funerals or similarly sorrowful occasions. In this case, the ashes represent sorrow over our sins and the pain and death caused by sin. Perhaps if we are to truly appreciate the great cost to Christ of our salvation, we should meditate on our sinfulness. This meditation should lead observers of Lent to turn away from their sins and recommit themselves to holiness.
Perhaps, after we examine our hearts and lives, we will be led to cry out to God as David did, "Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:9-10).
While my particular denomination does not traditionally celebrate Lent, I have come to appreciate its relevance. As we prepare to celebrate Easter, perhaps we should all use the next few weeks to focus less on our physical appetites and more on our spiritual needs. Perhaps such meditation would lead us to appreciate anew the cost of grace and the victory of the empty tomb.
Perhaps it's just a point on my part. I fast, abstain, attend Mass, Stations of the Cross on Fridays, and other activities.
Celebrate always seems too frivolous a word for this practice
I agree! observing Lent would be more appropriate and celebrating Easter...This is a time for Self Reflection to understand the greatest sacrafice done for us..
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life
Last night our priest wished us a happy and joyful Lent -- as well as a prayerful, fasting and almsgiving Lent.
And the Gospel emphasized "when" we do these things!!
Also the Gospel emphasized not looking unkept, gloomy or boastful during Lent as the hypocrites did.
So as your post suggests -- let's celebrate Lent in a joyful and humble way!
|From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope|
|Purification of spirit through fasting and almsgiving|
Dear friends, at every moment the earth is full of the mercy of God, and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is in them bear witness to the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvellous beauty of the elements as they obey him demands from the intelligent creation a fitting expression of its gratitude.
But with the return of that season marked out in a special way by the mystery of our redemption, and of the days that lead up to the paschal feast, we are summoned more urgently to prepare ourselves by a purification of spirit.
The special note of the paschal feast is this: the whole Church rejoices in the forgiveness of sins. It rejoices in the forgiveness not only of those who are then reborn in holy baptism but also of those who are already numbered among Gods adopted children.
Initially, men are made new by the rebirth of baptism. Yet there still is required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and whatever degree of progress has been made there is no one who should not be more advanced. All must therefore strive to ensure that on the day of redemption no one may be found in the sins of his former life.
Dear friends, what the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin.
There is no more profitable practice as a companion to holy and spiritual fasting than that of almsgiving. This embraces under the single name of mercy many excellent works of devotion, so that the good intentions of all the faithful may be of equal value, even where their means are not. The love that we owe both God and man is always free from any obstacle that would prevent us from having a good intention. The angels sang: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. The person who shows love and compassion to those in any kind of affliction is blessed, not only with the virtue of good will but also with the gift of peace.
The works of mercy are innumerable. Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that in the matter of almsgiving not only the rich and affluent but also those of average means and the poor are able to play their part. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts.
Thank you for that post...;)