Friday, April 13, 2012

Lent is Done

And if you're trying to sing an old song, 
you're getting all the words wrong,
Well, you're just a-following along too closely in the book.

"Epistemology," M. Ward

A few weeks ago, at the start of Lent, I wrote some thoughts on what it is and what it can be. I also wondered openly what meaning I would take from Lent this year, and someone suggested that I write about it after the season was finished.

I come from a church background with little to no emphasis on the season of Lent, or on most seasons of the Christian calendar. Thus, I have little instruction in how I should find meaning in the season. (It occurs to me that this might make me feel more free to find my own meaning in something, but in my experience, a lack of restrictions on what one can do is not the same thing as freedom.)

I gave up eating any animal products during Lent this year. I hoped to practice this self-denial as an avenue to reflection and contemplation, and to use fasting from certain foods as a way of making myself pure for the season of Easter, a time of renewal. I think that, most of the time, I failed in the former goal. I rarely stopped to think why I was not eating something, what was this abstention supposed to be pointing me towards. But there were occasions, perhaps once a week, maybe twice, when I would pause and reflect: in eating simply, I prepare myself for Jesus' death and resurrection; in denying myself, I remind myself of Jesus' sacrifice for me and for the world. These thoughts, though simple, are of deep importance to me.

I tend to be disappointed in myself at the ends of these kinds of things; I often feel that I have failed to really follow through with or take seriously such religious activity, especially activity spread over such a long period as forty days. I worry especially that I have not achieved the insight that I was supposed to. As I get older, though, I'm beginning to see things differently: the purpose of sustained religious activity, particularly for adults, is not necessarily to teach something new, but rather to remind us of the important lessons we would otherwise forget. (I talked more in depth about this perspective last week.) So, for once, I am content with my Lenten experience. I hope to continue to be so in the years to come.


  1. I suspect that for most of us these practices tend to end badly, in terms of what was hoped for to take place. But then we are surprised at the open tomb.

  2. Also, if you fulfilled your intention of not eating animal products for the duration, isn't that something in itself? Did you pick abstaining from animal products strictly for self-denial, or did you have other reasons as well?

  3. I decided to do the animal products thing because some friends and I were doing the Great Fast from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. I talked about it in that blog post on Lent I mentioned in the first paragraph here; if you want to know more about my motivations, you can read all about them there.