Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On Fasting and Abstinence

As today is Ash Wednesday, I had planned to write a little about what I'm giving up for Lent this year.  Every year, I spend all day on Mardi Gras stuffing my face and talking loudly about all the things I'm giving up or taking on for the next 40 days and how hard it's going to be.  And then, every year, on Ash Wednesday the Gospel reading tells us that when we're fasting, we should not look gloomy- we should not look like we're fasting.  In other words, when we pray by sacrificing things, we shouldn't brag about the things we're sacrificing- that sort of takes away from it.

So I'm not going to share with you what I'm giving up for Lent, and I'm not going to ask what you're giving up.

It's really interesting, these 40 days of prayer and penance, of fasting and sacrifice.  It's certainly easy to appear gloomy during Lent, when we give up the little indulgences that we love and focus instead on our relationship with God.  But I don't think that sacrificing things implies that the things themselves are bad- after all, when Saint Joseph's Day comes around, we're allowed to relax our Lenten observances a bit and celebrate the feast (but not on Saint Patrick's Day, though some people seem to think so).  I think the point of sacrificing something for Lent is to remind ourselves that we are dust, and unto dust we shall return-our bodies may be of this world, as are our physical indulgences, but our souls are not.  So the act of sacrificing something- like meat on Fridays- doesn't have to be a gloomy experience at all.  When we lived in Roanoke, my family would often have dinner at Parker's Seafood on Friday nights during Lent, and it always felt like such a treat.  My sisters and I would always order the same thing- fettuccine alfredo with shrimp- and we would spend the whole dinner catching up on each others' lives.  Fridays during Lent were generally free of extra curricular activities- football season was over, so our marching band musicians had no obligations, and dance class was generally a Monday - Thursday event (although Lent occasionally coincided with competition season, so sometimes I had to meet everyone at the restaurant all sweaty after practice)- so we were all able to relax and decompress and laugh about the week.  Sacrificing meat for seafood- something that was considered a much simpler, less celebratory food in Biblical times- brought our family together for a happy dinner, not a gloomy one.

How do you tackle your Lenten sacrifices?  (But remember- I'm not asking you what those sacrifices are!!)

Much love,
The Geeks

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