FEASTING & FASTING
Despite not being able to meet up with family and friends over the Christmas period, I still somehow managed to put on over half a stone in weight. Some of us compensated for the lack of company with an even greater indulgence of food and drink! Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 17th and offers the annual opportunity to remedy some of the excesses of the Christmas period.
There are many people, even those with no Christian faith, who use Lent as a time to lose a bit of weight and improve their physical fitness. There is a lot to be said for the tradition of giving up something for Lent: whether chocolate, cake, alcohol or some other pleasure. In a self-indulgent age, a little self-discipline doesn’t do us any harm. That may prove more difficult this Lent, as we have all had various privations forced on us because of the pandemic.
Many of us feel that we have had to give up so many pleasures over the last year. We will feel keenly the isolation from family and friends and our usual social activities. Many of us had to cancel holidays. Even days out have been curtailed when we are supposed to stay at home and not travel. So perhaps this year, the prospect of voluntarily giving up something for Lent holds little attraction.
But I would suggest that there is still wisdom to be found in the Church’s ancient rhythm of feasting and fasting. Eastern Orthodox Christians have much to teach us. When I compare my own observation of Lent with Orthodox friends, I think I perhaps trivialise what is a serious season. Lent is not just about losing a bit of weight, as worthy as that might be. It is an opportunity for a few weeks to change gear and redirect our energies to deepen our relationship with God. Fasting, or denying ourselves certain pleasures, can be an outward expression of that inner resolve. If this is accompanied by a renewed effort to pray and read the Scriptures, Lent can be a real time of growth for us.
We will all miss being able to join together in church to begin the season of Lent. We hope and pray that our churches will be able to open again for Easter. How wonderful it would be if we are able to gather together in church on Easter day this year, to sing our Alleluias and celebrate the Resurrection. Our Easter joy will be all the greater if we have first walked with Christ in the way of the Cross during Lent.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy, but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we walking in the way of the Cross may find it none other than the way of life and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (The Collect for Lent 3, Common Worship)