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Faithful Living: Dive into life this Lenten season
If you are like me, Wednesday of this week almost slipped by with little significance. Yet, it deserved a pause, for it was Ash Wednesday. It arrived so early this year I might have missed it, except for the fact that images of revelers participating in Fat Tuesday celebrations in New Orleans splashed across my TV screen. I stopped and realized it was time to orchestrate a spiritual endeavor of some kind during the next few weeks.
Does all this sound Greek to you? Because church calendar events are foreign to so many, a brief lesson in Christian history and the organized churchs response seems in order.
Christian churches in the U.S. and around the world set a yearly liturgical calendar, organizing days for public worship and activities. We celebrate these days so we can learn about, occasionally re-enact and experience on some level the major events in Jesus life in real time.
Lent is the 40-day period before Easter, when we celebrate Jesus ability to overcome death on a cross. Because each Sunday is considered a day to celebrate Christs resurrection, we skip Sundays when calculating the Lenten season. Hence, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter. In the early days of the Church those interested in becoming members were instructed and prepared for baptism during the Lenten season. This happens even today in some churches.
For those already united with the Church, Lent signaled a time of deep, personal reflection. Believers hoped to personally identify with Jesus experiences when he stepped away from his evangelistic travels and spent 40 days in the wilderness to prepare for the tortuous experience on the cross he understood would come. Some Christians fasted or restricted their intake of food and liquids, not to the point of dehydration or starvation, but just enough that they believed they controlled their appetites rather than their appetites ruling over them. They also hoped to identify on some level with Christs experiences. They purposely moved their focus off eating and over to Bible study, prayer and connecting with other believers through corporate worship.
These are the roots to todays modern Mardi Gras, Carnival and Fat Tuesday celebrations. For centuries it was customary for Christians to step away from eating meat during the 40 days of Lent. Carnival, which in Latin means farewell to meat, was celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday so people could live it up before voluntarily depriving themselves for the Lenten season.
And while Louisiana residents are probably well schooled on their historical facts, I will venture to guess that many tourists probably have little understanding of the roots of the celebration. It is for this vary reason that I believe historical knowledge is significant. How can we knowledgeably choose where to proceed if we have no idea from where weve come? Why do we occasionally choose to do things with little understanding about what our actions signify? Might we discover that our lives and activities have deeper meaning if we understand what others have done over the centuries?
Looks like weve got some things to ponder this Lenten season.
I have set three goals for myself during Lent, 2005. The first is to make especially careful food choices, eat nothing out of excess and drink eight glasses of water daily. This goal, to be mindful of the food choices I make every meal, is not only a good health choice but requires me to be disciplined in an area that I prefer to indulge.
I will reread Rick Warrens best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. The book is organized into 40 succinct chapters that will fit in nicely with this 40-day time period. Each chapter can be easily read each day and Ill be challenged to ponder one of the most noble of all questions: What on earth am I here for?
I read Warrens book two years ago and eagerly anticipate what God will reveal to me this time around. This is what is exciting when considering matters of faith: God will continually impart new wisdoms. I encourage you to join me. Copies can be found at local bookstores and public libraries. If you have thoughts and insights youd like to share, e-mail me at email@example.com. If you would like to partner with me, making prayer time each day your way of drawing deeper meaning from this Lenten season, e-mail me and Ill add you to the list of people Im praying for each day. I will be honored to add your name.
I plan to take one additional step and participate in a daily online discussion of The Purpose Driven Life with other Christians seeking a memorable Lenten experience. Its a step in modern communication Ive not made until now, but I hope will be intriguing.
Lets dive into the Lenten season with purpose and do it together.
Freelance writer Joan Bay Klopes e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.