Enter the Leftovers. So what if mistakes were made? That's what Lent is for. Not being Catholic or Orthodox and with no cultural connection to the religious significance, it always just seemed like a good idea. After the holiday feasting, a time of withdrawl, fasting and reflection to last out the winter until Spring's new growth comes in. Especially when combined with a tradition of New Year's Resolutions, Lent looks to me like a perfect second chance!
So what does Lent mean? The popular definition is giving something up as a sort of discipline, spiritually or otherwise. I suppose it is sort of proving to oneself that one CAN do it. In the traditional sense it was to practice three spiritual disciplines:
- Fasting- This was to overcome the temptations of the flesh and show mastery of one's appetites. The rules were varied, and possibly came from a practical need to conserve food supplies in the lean times of late winter and early spring when food could be scarce.
- Prayer- Since the tradition has a religious foundation, the days leading up to the Easter celebration should focus on more personal meditation of spiritual matters.
- Almsgiving- The Christian ideal of charity is also highlighted with the faithful encouraged to give to others by donating time, money, or energy to worthy causes.
I was inspired by a Buddhist friend who gave up beer for Lent to try the same effort last year. I gave up cheese, and for six weeks I had to avoid it, which was sometimes easy but sometimes difficult. So this year I will expand my Lenten effort to cover all three categories. The intriguing thing about Lent is that it is temporary, roughly six weeks or 40 days. WHat happens after Lent? The traditional practice seems somewhat blank. I suppose the ideal goal would be to continue the new habits indefinitely. But then it seems like any other "self-improvement" scheme. Perhaps making it temporary makes it somehow special? I suppose I will have to answer those questions later.