Wednesday, 18 February 2015


For the Church, Lent like Advent is a "powerful season" a season of waiting and preparing and therefore a time for sacrifice, repentance, and purification. But, in our hedonistic society of today these words seem to strike a rather discordant note.

So, is it fair to ask : how do we speak today about sacrifice and how do we practice it ??

Lent lasts for 40 days - as many days as Jesus Christ spent in the desert before he took on his mission of salvation. 40 is a sacred number in the Bible : the Deluge lasted for 40 Days, Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai in the presence of the Lord, besides it was the temporal distance between the Resurrection and the Ascension.

It was for Forty Years that the Jews remained in the Desert before they entered the "Promised Land". It was the duration of the reign of Solomon. In fact, the number 40 appears innumerable times in the Bible.

In the past, when times were tough and people were pious and fervent the Church imposed strict rules about some things: penances even harsh ones like fasting and austerity.

For Example : The Bourgeois were supposed to abstain from meat and forego hunting as a sport reserved for the nobility. This saved them from gout and other diseases. Fishermen abstained from fishing allowing the replenishment of marine life and farmers in this season promoted the fertility of farm animals.

They were also forbidden from any forms of public entertainment; that was why people wore purple characteristic of the season of Lent.

Today, we are pampered tremendously, with just two days of fasting and abstinence (which are official).

We are allowed all the culinary delights we crave. How can we live like this in Lent and be spiritually alert at home with our families.

There could be moderation in what we eat, both as regards our choices ( holding back on certain things) for example fried and fast foods and buying only seasonal produce etc.

But there are things we can fast and abstain from that are both modern and necessary. Fasting from the noise, the noise of everyday life like the turned on T.V. and headphones at full volume, frivolous talk, gossip, verbal bullying that sometimes hurts more than physical assault in order to find silence in meditation and prayer.

To abstain from T.V. : fix a day in the week when you won't switch it on so that you may rediscover the joys of reading a good catholic book/christian classic or be able to have a heart- to - heart talk with a member of your family rather than looking at the T.V. Screen all the time.

You will rediscover the liberating feeling of a "Text Free" existence which allows you to discover that it is actually not necessary.

These "Disciplines" are not easy to obtain, but they serve to make us aware of what we have all become slaves to, leading us to a continuous hype and craving for gratification of one kind or another.

There is yet another problem: the media and secular society often present Catholic Christianity as the "religion of renunciation" but if properly understood it is a religion that offers us proposals for living a wholesome life.

Lent, therefore must not be celebrated as a time of "DEPRIVATION" but rather as a gesture of love and a time of rediscovery of yearning for personal growth and enrichment.

Here is an opportunity to retrieve oneself and "replenish" our empty selves.

Credits: Don Bosco's Madonna, Mumbai
             March 2012, Vol -13, No -11
             Lent, A Time of Rediscovery by Domenico Volpi
             Pages 8-9


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