Today is Ash Wednesday. We are preparing for our season of fast and repentence, in preparation of Easter, on which day our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
This is going to sound strange to some, but Lent is my new favorite time of the year! Rediscovering my Catholicism began during Lent 2009, at which time I began headcovering in Mass (a post on headcovering to follow), praying the rosary, and truly spending time with God in church, outside of Mass.
Lent is a great time– we teach children about sacrifice by having them “abstain” or “give up” something they enjoy. We spend time praying (ask your parish for a Lenten ‘little black book’ of prayers) and reading the Passion story from the Bible. This is the time we draw closer to God through truly recognizing our own sin on a day for day basis.
Lent is the time of year that the Confession lines get longer– as they should! Many people come forward to confess their sins, vow to amend their lives, and live the way God commands in the future! As Catholics, we are asked to partake in the Sacrament of Communion at least once a year– preferably during the Easter season. As many of you know, you may NOT participate in Holy Communion without having first thoroughly examined your conscience and repented of your sins, thus recieving absolution from them.
Only a pure, clean heart should partake of Holy Communion. Naturally you can not erase your origional sin, but your soul must be free of the stain of mortal sin in order to do so. During Holy Communion, you take Jesus LITERALLY into your body! This is not the Holy Spirit we are talking about here– this is LITERALLY Jesus! Inside of you! Naturally the vessel He enters must be clean– free of mortal stain!
Lent is a season that can truly prepare you for recieving Holy Communion. Sadly, too many Catholics partake of this Sacrament without having first purged their soul of mortal sin. This in and of itself IS a mortal sin! I know because it is a sin I committed most of my life.
I didnt understand. I didnt TRULY fathom that I was literally taking Jesus into my body, and thus, my heart needed to be clean! I was going through the motions, and that’s where it ended for me.
But Lent! Lent makes you think! Lent makes you reflect on all the ways in which you have let God down. Without this TRUE and COMPLETE examination of conscience, one can not amend his life and move closer to God. The prayers and practices of fasting/abstinence during Lent truly help a soul move closer to God.
So what does a person actually DO during Lent? Well, one common thing is to abstain from something enjoyable. I read on an internet forum last night that a woman is giving up HOT SHOWERS for the season. 40 days of no hot water. Every morning she wakes up and reflects in a very tangible way about Jesus’ sacrifice, through this small sacrifice she is making. WONDERFUL! What a great way to remember Jesus’ sacrifice every single day!
Another common practice is the practice of abstinence, meaning, that on certain days Catholics are required by canon law to abstain from eating meat. Ash Wednesday and Lenten Fridays are the requirements.
(and incidentally, if you are not abstaining from meat on EVERY Friday, you are supposed to be replacing that sacrifice with abstaining from something else– little known/followed Canon Law).
We abstain from meat for many reasons, the most notable being that no meat was served at the Last Supper, which of course took place on a Friday. As every Mass is a recreation of the Last Supper, Fridays also serve to remind us of Jesus’ sacrifice, and the words He spoke to His Apostles at this time.
Another practice is fasting. Fasting has changed over the course of the centuries. The Pope has the power to change the “rules” of fasting, because Jesus Himself granted Peter (the first pope) the power to Bind and Loose– meaning, effectively, to amend dogmatic rules like those governing fasting.
Fasting in the year 2010 is not required for the ill, the elderly, pregnant women, and children who have not yet reached the age of accountability. Fasting should consist of 2 small meals, 1 normal meal, and NO food or beverage between meals or after supper. Here at the Casa de Scribbler, we do things a little differently.
The Auditor abstains from all food for 24 hours. Myself, The Faithful Scribbler, I abstain as long as I can, but usually have a pretty unpleasant drop in blood sugar around 3pm and will have a snack. (actually, as I type this I am craving breakfast!) The Little Scribbler is not bound by any fasting laws and eats on her normal schedule throughout the day.
No one is supposed to know you are fasting. It is a sacrifice you do for God, not for other men to pat you on the back. By typing this very blog, I am telling you all about our fasting, however, I think education about Lenten sacrifice is important. I’ve read a LOT of stupid things out there in recent days about why Lent is “dumb” or “pointless”, or only for Catholics (you know, who are in a cult anyway and know nothing about God or Jesus so why bother with what they do!?)
The Faith is a rich one, steeped in Holy Tradition, passed down to us by Jesus Himself, through His Apostle Peter, and so on and so on. The practices that take place during Lent may vary over the years, as various Popes bind and loose dogmatic practices, but MEANING of this season of Repentance and Reconcilliation do not. Lent is the time we take to reconcile ourselves to the Will of God. We take inventory of all the ways in which we are failing. We spend time with special prayers. We prepare ourselves to TRULY appreciate Jesus’s Sacrifice and the Miracle of His rising from the dead, on Easter Sunday.