On March 6, we will enter into the season of Lent. Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. It is, above all, a season of preparation for celebrating Easter. Historically, Lent began as a season of fasting (about which I shall say more in a moment) and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time of penance for all Christians.
Lent culminates with the Great Three Days – sometimes called the Triduum or Pasch – from sunset Holy Thursday through sunset Easter Day. This is the climax of not only the season of Lent but of the entire Christian calendar and is a bridge into the Easter season. These days proclaim the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’s passion (suffering), death, and resurrection. During these days, which our church marks with our worship service on Maundy Thursday, the community of faith journeys with Jesus from the upper room, to the cross, to the tomb, and to the garden.
Fasting usually refers to any practice of restricting food. But fasting during Lent can be
The spiritual discipline of fasting is just that: a spiritual discipline. It is not intended as a means of losing weight or dieting (though for many the practice may bring about a side benefit of increased health). Fasting is also something that is done in recognition of the good gifts that God has bestowed upon us, but with the understanding that we are not bound to the gifts, rather to the Giver. Thus, we do not use fasting as a means of quitting a bad habit (such as smoking). While I’d encourage you all to quit any bad habit you may have (
Finally, when we fast during Lent, we do well to remember that the season of Lent is forty days (not including Sundays) which also mark the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before he was tempted by Satan. We remember also that every Sunday, whether in Lent or not, is a mini-celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, and thus a “feast-day.” Feast-days are days of celebration (and if there is anything that a Christian would celebrate, it is the resurrection of Christ!). It is not appropriate to fast on a feast-day.
Pope Francis commented a few years ago on the practice of fasting and encouraged Christians world-wide to give up overlooking the disenfranchised, poor, and alien in our midst. I would add my humble voice to Pope Francis’ encouragement for Christians to fast by urging each of you to participate in a fast of some sort this Lenten season, in preparation for Easter this year. I hope that in your fast you experience God’s presence with you.