As a child I was always fascinated by my maternal grandmother’s rather ostentatious observance of Lent. She would make sure that we all knew that she had given up sugar in her many cups of tea for Lent! Even as a boy I found this somewhat amusing and questioned whether it had much to do with God. There is nothing wrong with the practices of self-denial and of abstinence from certain foods or alcohol or other activities during Lent. But the aim of so doing is not to impress others but to remind yourself that you are doing so to draw you closer to God. But Lent is not just about “giving up” but also about “taking on.” For instance, Lent is a great season for trying to make contact with long-time friends whom you have been meaning to call or write to for ages but haven’t. Or to make an effort to visit an elderly person or an invalid who would really appreciate it. I am all for “taking on” some religious practice that is not part of your regular routine like reading Morning Prayer using the eCP app on your iphone on the bus or subway or saying Compline before bed each night. Or perhaps using the services on offer at another local church such as Stations of the Cross on Fridays at St Mary the Virgin, Times Square, or at the Church of the Transfiguration on East 29th Street. Or even simpler, just try spending 15 minutes in silent contemplation at some point in your day. There are many ways to keep Lent that can keep us mindful and focused on the season and on the Passion of Christ.
Lent is definitely not about “beating yourself up” spiritually! Rather it is a time of quiet preparation and spiritual enrichment as we get ready to celebrate the divine drama of Holy Week and Easter.
Above all, have a good Lent.