Today marks the beginning of the Catholic observance of Lent. The Lenten practice of deprivation has always struck me as noble, but lacking in philanthropic purpose; thus guiding me to ponder, ‘Is it better to give up something or to actually give?’
To address this question, I’ve looked into the history of why practitioners of Catholicism feel compelled to ‘give up’ something during Lent.
The word Lent has ties within many languages. Stemming from the Anglo-Saxon word lententide, the word translates to Springtide, which was the name for the month of March. The figurative meaning of ‘spring’, as it applies to the Lenten season, refers to rebirth. Lenten practices are preparation for Easter, the observance of Jesus Christ’s rising from the dead after his crucifixion. Easter is, arguably, the most sacred holiday celebrated in the Catholic community.
The currently accepted Lenten practices began in the 6th century. The Lenten season spans 40 days and nights, beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Easter Sunday. (Continued below)
Lenten practices have historically included deprivation of some self-chosen indulgence, including some variation of fasting. The 40-day span of observance is based on the biblical tale of Satan’s attempts to tempt Jesus Christ. For 40 days, Jesus chose to fast and contemplate his Godly mission. (Matthew 4:1-11).
The lost meaning behind the story is that Jesus was not just giving up food – he was sacrificing himself for the greater good of humanity. He was giving, not merely giving up something.
The most common Lenten sacrifice? Sweets, according to an article on CBS Local – New York. (http://newyork.pickaside.cbslocal.com/pick-a-side/view/what-would-you-rather-give-lent)
If you can’t stomach the thought of forgoing treats or if giving, rather than giving up, is more of your modus operandi, consider these low-to-no cost options for fulfilling your observation of Lent:
- Create a ‘Power Hour’. Choose a time frame each day to turn off the lights and pray. You’ll be reducing energy consumption while inducing prayer time.
- Make a list of causes. Write a letter or an email per day in support of those causes.
- If you still feel the need to give up something, consider estimating the weekly quantity of what it is that’s being ‘given up’ and donate that amount to a local food bank.
For information on how to get contributions to those in need, visit the website of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank at www.pittsburghfoodbank.org.
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