‘I get it! Lent is like dieting to fit into a dress for a wedding’ said Alice to me when I had tried to explain Lent to her. ‘Close, but not exactly’ I replied. But Alice had captured some sense of the meaning of fasting: we take on Lent to help us prepare for something wonderful that is coming soon. So what do we take on in Lent and why?
The Christian in Lent takes on prayer, fasting and almsgiving to prepare for the great feast of Easter, the resurrection of Jesus. When we fast, the little hunger we feel reminds us of the gift of Lent: a time of examining and renewing our relationship with God in preparation for Easter.
The emphasis is not on calorie counting but on what is going on inside us. One early Christian writer said we should not be thinking about what we put into our mouths but about what comes out of them! It’s no good taking on a great fast if we are going to speak untruths or speak without love.
One effect of fasting is the internal freedom it gives us. We do not fast for ourselves but to become better Christians and that means to be outward looking: to be alert to the needs of others and do something practical to help them.
Let’s get into Lent!