For so many Filipinos, Lent is associated with pasyon, senaculo, Visita Iglesia and other practices. But the Lenten season is more than that.
Lent is a time for you to slow down and recollect God’s extreme sacrifices to save us from our sins. It is also a time to ponder on the status of our relationship with God, to reflect on our sins, and to repent and turn away from those sins. With that, you can say that Lent is a time of ‘spiritual detox.’
Read on to know a little bit more about the Lenten season and what practices can you do to have a more meaningful spiritually-cleansing Lent.
THE HISTORY OF LENT
Typically, Lent is celebrated by Catholics and some mainline Protestant churches. It developed as part of the historical Christian calendar.
Although its format had changed as time passed by and as different cultures adapted it, the basic concept remains the same. It still opens our hearts to God’s refining grace through prayer, confession, fasting, and almsgiving.
Traditionally, Lent lasts forty days, modeled after Christ’s forty-day fast in the desert, and ends on Good Friday. In the Western Church, Lent officially begins with a reminder of our mortality on Ash Wednesday.
However, according to the Catholic Church, the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar was updated in 1969 which prescribed that “Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive.”
The Lenten season this year began with Ash Wednesday on February 26, 2020, and will end on Holy Saturday, April 11, 2020. For Catholics, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper will fall on April 9th, 2020, Holy Thursday.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lenten practices will be a bit different this year. Read HERE.
HOW DO WE PRACTICE IT TODAY
Here are some of the key elements of the Lenten season according to crosswalk.com, along with some of the symbolism that comes with it. You can celebrate these practices both individually and as a community:
Just like Advent, the official color for Lent is purple. It is because purple represents repentance for sins and also symbolizes the state of our souls outside the light of Christ.
This Lent, do not forget to pray for those who do not know Christ and for those who have sinned gravely against Him.
Lent is the season to be repentant. Spend the 40 days by examining the circumstances behind the recurring sin in our lives that prevent us from following God’s Will. The goal here is to probe deep into your conscience with God’s Word as guidance so that you may eventually commit to change in any areas you have not submitted to the Lord.
You can start the examination of your conscience by praying Psalm 139, verse 23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
After that, confess, perhaps even to your priest or an accountability partner (James 5:16), the ways you’ve sinned against God.
Read here so that you will know what to do if there is no priest available during the COVID-19 Home quarantine season.
Fasting and Prayer:
Fasting is one practice that is loosely observed nowadays. However, if done correctly, it can be a powerful way of renewing your relationship with God.
Fasting is a way of abstaining from the excesses of life so that we might be more attuned to the Lord’s voice.
It is also a way of disciplining yourself so that you will find it easier to resist the temptations that you will meet throughout your life. It Is because you are already used to saying “no” to your desires.
And finally, fasting is also a way of remembering the sufferings of Christ. It can be very powerful when accompanied by prayer and confession.
Sarah Phillips cautions those who intend to practice fasting this Lent, though. Although fasting can be a wonderful spiritual exercise, it is also an easy one to abuse. She also advised that when you fast, you do not deprive yourself so much that you harm your body. Also, take into account any medical conditions or nutritional needs when deciding what and how much to abstain from.
“I recommend consulting with a doctor and/or spiritual advisor before undertaking a serious fast,” she advised.
Instead of refraining from the intake of food, why not commit to abstain from technology? You can either go offline on social media or temporarily stop playing mobile games that you love so much.
Aside from being aware of the suffering and sacrifice of Christ, another very important element of the Lenten season is being sensitive and responsive to the suffering of others.
Think of a good way you can give more to those who are in need, especially now that we are facing a worldwide crisis. It could be through extra financial offerings, donating goods to the front-liners or to those who cannot go to work because of the home quarantine, or increasing your time commitment to volunteer works such as relief operations.
Lent is a time for you to open your hearts a little wider, not just so that you will understand our Lord a little deeper, but also so you can get reacquainted with the version of yourself that is more humble, charitable, forgiving, and appreciative.
Consider Lent to be an opportunity for us to receive the overflowing graces that God has to offer.