Last year Tim and I were blessed to attend a presentation of the symbolism and significance behind the Jewish tradition of the Passover meal. We were both fascinated by what we learned and discussed the beauty of ancient cultural and religious traditions and how so much of that Old Testament reverence is lost in our "what ever works for you" Christian culture. At the end of the presentation, the Jewish missionary who spoke, ended his time talking about the tradition of Lent. Having grown up in non-denominational and Southern Baptist churches, Lent was not something we observed or really spoke about. This novel idea excited Tim and I and last year we decided to fast away desserts and sweet treats for Lent.
This year we have again given up all things sweet and delicious. Lent started last Wednesday, Feb. 17th and continues until April 3rd, the day before Easter. Though giving up sweets may not seem too big a deal, let me tell you, it is tough. Its not so much the big treats (pies, cakes, cookies, etc.) because we don't eat a lot of those foods. Its the things we eat without thinking about it (a chocolate covered strawberry at Bible Study, a handful of M&Ms at the office, a mocha from Starbucks) that are hard to say no to.
I was reading about Lent earlier this week and really liked the following description from churchyear.net:
The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. Thus it is fitting that the season of Lent begin with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes mixed with oil on one's head or forehead. However, we must remember that our Lenten disciplines are supposed to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit. Our Lenten disciplines are supposed to help us become more like Christ. Eastern Christians call this process theosis, which St. Athanasius aptly describes as "becoming by grace what God is by nature."(That last quote from St. Anthanasius makes me so excited and fills me with hope!)
Observing Lent has become a new tradition for our little family and I am very excited to incorporate it into our Easter celebration. Though giving up chocolate donuts does not seem like a spiritually transforming act, our decision to remove yummy things from our menu for the 46 days until we celebrate Christ's resurrection, allows us to be reminded of the huge act of self-denial our Savior made on our behalf. Thinking about His ultimate sacrifice makes putting down that cookie much easier.