It’s hard to believe that it’s already Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the forty days that mark the traditional period of contemplation and repentance that precedes the celebration of Easter known as Lent. I’m often struck by the things that people decide to do during Lent, from giving up chocolate to not eating meat on Fridays to fasting certain days of the week. I wonder why they do it. I often wonder why I do it.
Historically, things like fasting represented a special activity on the part of faithful people to help them attune themselves spiritually by denying their flesh. This denial was not some sort of special atonement or test to see whether or not it could be done, but a way of sharpening the body and mind so that they could concentrate on the spirit and what lies beyond.
This idea is not some sort of mysticism or new age thinking, but an acknowledgement that our lives consist of far more than what we know and experience through the function of our senses and minds. Our physical world is just one part of an order of existence that stretches from God’s words of creation spoken into the void to this very moment as I write this post. Yet, we lose our connection with this order because we wall ourselves in with our obsessive focus on what we sense and what we know.
Giving up something at Lent, then, should be an effort on our part to sharpen our spiritual awareness in anticipation of the celebration of one of the most spriritual moments in mankind’s history, as Jesus Christ, perfect and innocent, died on our behalf, bearing the punishment for all of the sins of all people in all times, descended into hell to proclaim victory over sin and death, and rose again as the first-born of all those who will receive the Kingdom of Heaven by faith through God’s grace.
By choosing to focus ourselves in this way, we can join our minds and our souls with all Christians in all times and all of the order of existence in praise to our Savior and our God for his gifts of salvation and and faith. In doing so, we move a little closer to the Kingdom: Heaven our goal.