Lent: A Little Clarification

Reformed HumorDuring Lent every year I take a hiatus from Facebook and other social media outlets (minus my blog). But just before leaving this year I noticed a number of posts from Protestant friends taking Lent to task for being a corruption of the faith, for being some form of “works righteousness.”

I have also received push-back from those I see on a regular basis who, when they find out I’m on the fast, mention how fasting doesn’t make sense, or how they are free from such “religious” constraints.

Since I have a few minutes at my disposal today I wanted to post just a short clarification as to what Lent is suppose to accomplish for the participant.

I’m not sure where the rumor started that Lenten celebrators view salvation as somehow contingent on fasting. A coffee shop barista just informed me (literally 10 minutes ago) that he is free from guilt and doesn’t need to fast (he was a little upset with me because I turned down his offer to include cream cheese with my bagel, and I’m pretty sure he thought that I thought the cream cheese would send me to hell).

God bless him.

He asked me why Orthodox Christians fast dairy during Lent, but I knew from prior exchanges with him over the years that it didn’t matter what I said back. He just wanted an opportunity to tease me (its fair game, I tease him regularly).

I gave him a good one-line response and he just turned his face upward and cackled, “I can do whatever I want, I don’t care.”

He makes a good Americano, so, whatever.

This is a good example of what many Orthodox, Catholics, etc., encounter during the Lenten season. And I get it. I use to be on the other side of the fence as a Charismatic Evangelical staring in at those who subjected themselves to such practices with wonder and pity.

But now being on the inside of the practice staring out provides a completely different view. On the outside Lent appears troubling. Why would someone accept such self-denial, in an age where love of self is the measure of health? Why would people deny themselves such random things (meat, dairy, wine, oil, etc) in the hopes of being liked by God, in an age where God is as accessible as a phone app and His acceptance axiomatic to being a good person (or, in hyper-grace terms: “just believing in Him.”)?

Why Lent? Why fast?

Simple.

Lent is not a practice for those afraid of going to hell, but rather those afraid of the prison of self.

Fasting is a way of making the body a slave to the spirit rather than the spirit a slave to the body.

Fasting helps a Christian to understand his or her baptismal vows.

The Lenten season is training in how to block out distractions and silence the mind and body in the direction of eternity.

Lent is the glorious anticipation of our resurrected Lord and the resurrection of His saints.

Fasting tethers the mind to life in the spirit and exposes the transitory nature of this present age.

That’s all.

Sure, much more could be said from an academic, historical, theological view, but none of that really factors in for the one fully engaged in the daily grind of Lent (and it is a grind). It is the same sort of joy athletes experience during rigorous workouts, knowing what strength the strain and endurance is building deep within them. Kinda, sorta, like that.

Thanks for reading. Happy fasting!

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14 thoughts on “Lent: A Little Clarification

  1. Yup. I believe in some “rules” its oil that is prohibited, but in the ancient Mediterranean oil was primarily olive oil, hence its original intent. Same with the grapes in conjunction with wine. Does that throw a monkey wrench into your cooking blog?

  2. Ha, maybe! Let me try and wrap my head around this. I get the oil and wine part, but are you saying you won’t eat an actual olive because it could be pressed to make oil, and grapes because they have the potential to become wine? That certainly would limit my diet.

  3. I grew up in church and never heard once your interpretation of Lent. I appreciate yours a lot. It’s real. It’s just plain and normal. I like plain and normal — a lot. Bullshit bothers me..maybe that’s why.

    I never observed Lent, but heard plenty about it growing up. Truth is – you hit the nail on the head with your feature pic. Jesus righteousness really is enough..so if I ever did fast it would be about getting closer to Him, not making myself more holy for Him.

    Great Post!
    -followed you too.

  4. Katherine, don’t update your menu just yet. I just rechecked our guidelines and I was mistaken. I’m not sure where I heard the grape and olive thing.

  5. I dunno either, but if you’ve been in keeping with those kinds of guidelines all this time, I’m super impressed! That’s dedication.

  6. Lent’s origin is in Babylon. If you wish to follow Babylon so much then just do so. Stop calling it Orthodoxy. Putting a Christian slant on it or slapping a few Christian names to it doesn’t change anything. Lent is the celebration of the weeping of Semiramis and the virgins for Tammuz. Period. There is no Biblical teaching about lent whatsoever.

  7. R. Fowler, you’re quickly becoming my favorite Christian conspiracy theorist.

    We should add the doctrine of the Trinity to the “pagan origins” thing. After all, the Egyptians had a holy trinity of Isis, Horus, and Set. The Hindus had Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Obviously the early Christians got their material from these sources. In addition, Jesus fasted forty days, thus he was a closet Tammuzian. And of course the worst of them all is the doctrine of Sola Scriptura based entirely on pagan, 16th century, neo-Gnostic, Enlightenment concepts.

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