So, before I get to the main topic of his post, I wanted to furrow my brow a bit about the lack of blogging opportunities lately, which has been making me most unhappy. It's not good when work is so busy you don't have time to check your message boards, IM, write frivolous emails, and blog :) I'm hoping that things are starting to wind down. In my free time, I've been reading the Twilight series. Has anybody else read those? Well. I have a lot to say about them. I'm saving that for it's very own post, so stay tuned :) I'll just give a teaser to say that the stories are very engaging; however, when you want to continually slap the face of the heroine, this is a sign that the author has gone awry somehow.
Anyway, the beginning of Lent in the Western Church is Ash Wednesday, which is coming right up on our calendars this week. I know it sounds odd, but I like Lent. I enjoy all the traditional devotions, like the Stations of the Cross, and all of the fish dinners you suddenly see advertised. Giving things up is good for us, and each year I look forward to a nice, regimented (Type A personality...) way to tighten myself up spiritually. This year, I have resolved to do the following:
(1) Give up meat for all of Lent.
(2) Give up diet soda. This sounds trivial, but I love Cherry Coke Zero like nobody's business, so this is a true sacrifice.
(3)Pray morning and evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours daily.
(4)Pray a daily rosary for larger personal intentions.
(5)Follow the Lenten devotional that I bought which has daily readings.
One of the truly fascinating aspects of Lent to me is fasting. The Holy Father's Lenten Message for 2009 actually addresses fasting as a spiritual discipline, and is quite good. In the Western Rite, the Church asks that we do the following:
Abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by eating only 1 full meal and at most, 2 smaller meals.
Things are more intriguing in the Eastern Church. During what they term Great Lent, Eastern Catholics and Orthodox abstain from all meat products for the duration of Lent, as well as all dairy products, eggs, fish, wine and olive oil. Jinkies. Eastern Christians also fast during the liturgical season of Advent, termed "Little Lent," hence the cool names. In the weeks leading up to Great Lent, the Eastern Church celebrates "Meatfare Sunday" and then "Cheesefare Sunday," which serve as the last time those items are consumed until Easter Sunday. They would call it Pascha :) I like this - meat and dairy products' last big bang before Great Lent actually begins - sort of an Orthodox Mardi Gras.
Overall, Lent isn't just about giving something(s) up. It's about a call to sacrifice, prayer and increased charity. I love the opportunity to have a sharp focus on these things each year, and re-evaluate how one is doing in each category. A period of self-reflection is needed by all of us.