Lent -a season of the Christian church year
Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and continues until Easter Sunday.
Observed by Catholic , Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, (although the dates may differ) Lent is a time of spiritual reflection, contemplation, renewal, and commitment.
Christians accomplish this in various ways such as special religious services, readings, music, prayer and meditation, and service.
But probably the best known and observed is the practice of fasting.
What is fasting?
Simply put, fasting means to refrain from foods and/or drink either partially or completely, for a specified time periods. Religions other than Christianity also practice some form of fasting.
Traditionally, one observed Lent by avoiding certain types of food (particularly meat, eggs, and milk products). In some traditions, partial fasts were observed where participants would eat only one meal on certain days. Another way to fast is to avoid all food for a specified time frame, usually one day.
Many who observe Lent today are not as strict. Often they choose to abstain from a particular food or particular behavior such as television or social media during Lent.
The purpose of fasting during Lent is to refrain from something to redirect the time and energy on our relationship to God.
You may be more familiar with fasting for medical reasons.
We physicians frequently ask patients to fast for 8-12 hours prior to performing certain blood tests. The meaning of the result may be different depending on how long ago the patient had eaten. This is the case when we test for diabetes (sugar or glucose) and hyperlipidemia ( cholesterol and triglyceride).
Another common time for medical fasting is prior to surgery or procedures, especially those done under general anesthesia. Many people become nauseated at this time and may throw up or regurgitate stomach contents. If these get sucked down into the lungs it can cause respiratory distress and lead to pneumonia, both serious complications of surgery. Having the stomach empty of food and liquid can minimize this risk .
There is evidence now that intermittent fasting may aid in weight loss. Dr. Monique Tello discusses intermittent fasting for the Harvard Health Blog at this link.
40 days of sorrow
The 40 days of Lent are also a time of grief.
This tradition begins with the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Ashes are put on believers’ foreheads during religious services as a sign of repentance.
The practice of putting ashes on one’s head is an ancient sign of mourning that was often done at funerals or similarly sorrowful occasions. In this case, the ashes represent sorrow over our sins and the pain and death caused by sin.
Whether you formally observe Lent or not, we may consider this as a time to slow down, quiet the noise in our lives, open our hearts, and listen for new inspiration for using our gifts to create new ways to serve others.
“For even the Son of Man (Jesus ) came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”Mark 10:45 NLT
New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Last year I experienced Lent with this devotional book by Alicia Britt Chole and I recommend it to help you observe a spiritually meaningful “fast” during Lent.
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