“I’m not Catholic”
…was always, in my mind, a reasonable answer for knowing little to nothing about Lent and the whole Lenten season. All I knew about it was Catholics got dirt smudged on their faces and complained that giving up wine and chocolate were hard. No wine and chocolate for 40 days? Yeah, that sounded like something that needed to stay far far away in Catholic land.
However, I was wrong. Lent is about much more than giving something up and dirty faces. I had the opportunity this year to attend a Lent service through City Church here in south Florida, and I finally began to grasp the gravity of this church holiday. Lent is about embracing death. The impending death of Christ, yes, but also the death of self. The death of your nature, and selfish desires. That’s why you give something up, it metaphorically “dies” to you. Then in 40 days, you raise it back up and celebrate it’s return. The ashes on the face symbolize that from dust we came and to dust we will return. It’s a sobering thought really, that someday we’ll be no more than dust in the wind (ok, I couldn’t help that one). So this year, I decided to participate in Lent. I started the Daniel Plan and gave up white flours, breads, and wine for the Lenten season. I learned that when you give something up, it should be replaced with something that draws you closer to Christ, so I’m working on that too.
I also learned feast days trump lent and every Sunday you get to indulge in whatever you’re giving up. I’m not sure if that’s as long standing a tradition, or if people really needed their coffee/wine fix (which I suspect are the two most given up items, or maybe just have the most vocal abstainers). But hey, I won’t stand in the way of a tradition!