Lenten Feasting

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, the forty days before Easter set aside for reflection, meditation, and penitence.  For many people, myself often included, “Lent” is synonymous with “fasting”; “What are you giving up for Lent?” is a common question as the season approaches.  While, certainly, Lent has far more depth than can be plumbed by not going on Facebook or eating cookies, the daily denial offers the most obvious reminder of this very somber reason for the season.  I was raised in many low- or non-denominational churches that never mentioned Lent, but since I entered college I’ve found the practice of sorrow to be extremely useful as I approach the Easter celebration.  However, this year I’ve realized that Easter seeps through even the intentionally joyless period, never letting one forget the joy of the Resurrection.

In the low church/Zwinglian/Protestant way of Lenten fasting, one abstains from a pleasure or habit from Ash Wednesday until Easter.  However, on Sundays, one is allowed to partake of the thing one has given up.[1] This particular custom is not, as far as I know, true in all such similar fasts.  While every tradition observes Lent differently, the wide majority share the reverence for Sundays by not including them in the forty days of the season.  Sundays are feast days, set apart by the simple virtue that they are the weekly celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  The fact of his rising overcomes the preparation for his death.  In my tradition, such as it is, the enjoyment of the denied item brings into clearer focus the miraculous gift that is the Christian’s new life in Jesus.  Every Sunday, certainly, should remind us of this.  However, the miniature feast in the middle of the fast makes the celebration even more poignant.

[1] This is, at least, the way I have always seen Lent observed.  Of course there are likely many low church or Protestant or Zwinglian people who celebrate differently.

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