Growing up I can’t say that I even liked Lent let alone love it! Lent was simply that 40 day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter that must be endured.
As a Catholic who disliked fish (immensely disliked!!), I truly hated Fridays. Public Schools (at least then) catered to Catholic students and served things like fish sticks (blech!) with parsleyed potatoes (those were good!) or cheese pizza.
Dinner meant fish, or tuna noodle casserole, you know the kind made with cream of something soup. My mom would also add slices of American Cheese Singles (I’ll just say “not my favorite”) and crushed potato chips (I liked that part!). Sometimes we would order cheese pizza. That would have been good but I really prefer pepperoni.
I didn’t understand what Lent meant. I didn’t understand that it was a time of preparation. I didn’t realize that experiencing Lent, would make the Resurrection of the Lord the most meaningful historical event in the history of humanity. I thought that Lent was about giving up something (usually chocolate) and being rewarded with a large basket of goodies.
Then, I became a protestant. To me Lent was a Catholic thing so, no longer being Catholic meant that I no longer had to endure Lent and so I no longer even acknowledged the season. I do know now that many protestants do observe lent but I didn’t.
Everything changed last year when I experienced my first Lent as an Orthodox Christian. Lent is a beautiful time of remembering Christ’s earthly ministry. It is a time of remembering why he came and why he died. It is filled with hopeful anticipation of the greatest of all Church Feasts: Pascha.
Last Sunday was Forgiveness Sunday. It was also the Sunday of Adam and Eve’s fall from paradise. Today was the first Sunday of Lent. During Lent we remember that we were created in His image and that He will rescue us from the grave and we will become icons of Christ.
How will I be celebrating Lent this year? I will be following the recipe given during the sermon last week: to forgive, to fast and to build up treasure in heaven.
Forgiveness is a process that brings healing. Sin builds up walls between God and man. It brings up walls between man and man. Forgiveness tears down those walls. Forgiveness builds up and restores relationships.
Fasting isn’t just about “giving up something” nor is it about not eating certain foods on certain days. It is also about abstaining from sin. We are encouraged to fast from worldly pursuits.
Treasure building is, I think, the proactive and visible part of Lent. We build up treasure in heaven when we give to the poor. We build up treasure in heaven when we serve one another. I can be building up treasure in heaven for myself by spending more time in prayer and by choosing to read the Bible more or choosing to read books that encourage me to focus on God.
I am looking forward to the rest of Lent. I’m looking forward to Holy Week. And I am especially looking forward to Pascha and the 40 days of celebrating His glorious resurrection!