I’ve been leading up to this post here and here and now with Lent just a day away I’ll talk about what lent is and how I plan to observe it this year. I think I finally understand where the word Easter comes from and the history of some of our customs surrounding Easter.
The name Easter has Germanic and Anglo-Saxon roots and comes from the name given to the goddess of spring named Eoster. Easter was originally the celebration of spring and fertility, hence eggs and rabbits.
The church Christianized the spring festival and adopted some aspects in the passover or paschal celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection. But the purely Christian and religious part of Easter comes not only in the celebration of Christ’s resurrection but also the 40-46 days preceding Easter.
Some sources state that the meaning of the word lent goes back to an Anglo-Saxon word meaning spring or the month of March in which the majority of the forty days of lent fall. Other sources say that Lent comes from the Latin Quadragesima meaning forty as in the forty days before Easter. In the early church it was a time of preparation for baptism or for repentance and fasting. According to this website:
Lent is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter.
The fast in the early church was during the 40 hours before Easter Sunday then later the fast was lengthened to a few weeks then a month, but it wasn’t until the Council of Nicea in 325 AD that the Lenten period became the 40 days, not including Sundays, before Easter. This time was often used to prepare new converts for baptism and a time for all Christians to focus or refocus on Jesus’ death and resurrection and to immerse ourselves in the gospel message.
I will spend these forty days focusing on the gospel of grace through denial, devotion and discipleship.
Focusing on grace through practicing spiritual disciplines seems at first counter intuitive. After all the definition of grace is unmerited favor; the free gift of salvation not earned but accepted. Yet, I feel this pull to use this time leading up to Easter to purposefully bolster my faith through the working out of my faith. I expect to experience grace in new ways as I know in and of myself I am powerless to accomplish any of what I intend unless it is truly of God.
I also hope to find some personal answers along the way. Answers to questions I’ve been asking about what direction to take in a number of areas in my life. If devoting time to prayer(devotions) and fasting (denial) and discipleship yields direction I’ll be very grateful.
Fasting is a way to increase our hunger for God. I want to live the next seven weeks with an awareness of my most basic need. I’ll strip away the outward indulgences that feign satisfaction so I can seek to fulfill the truest longings of my heart.
I’ll be eliminating distractions that take up time and money so I can devote myself to prayer and service. I’ll deactivate my Facebook and Instagram accounts and will unsubscribe from all but a few blogs. I want to live with cash only for the barest necessities and eliminate some of the luxuries I spend money on so I can donate more to good causes. I’ll give up yoga classes, a month of essential oils, buying new books, and some other items I consider luxuries. I also will give up my netflix shows and only watch TV if it’s a family event.
I’m not sure exactly how this will play out, but I anticipate a struggle where I’ll need to cry out to God. I have many comfortable habits that distract me from seeking God for direction and help, and many coping mechanisms that divert my attention from my true duty to serve God and others.
As I strip away the outer things I’ll have more room to devote myself to prayer and to seeking God above all and before all things. Through daily devotions I hope to develop ears to hear from God.
I found this resource that looks helpful towards that end:
Journey to the Cross
I’m also reading through the new testament. Reading how the early Christians devoted themselves to God and one another is provoking in me a desire to do the same.
When I first jotted down my 3 d’s of lent I meant to write discipline but disciple came out on the paper. I went with it. I hope to practice my own discipleship as a student of Christ by sitting at His feet and listening to His word.
I want to grow in humility so I can learn from others. I want to be a student of the cross through devotion and denial for the purpose of living for God in all that I do through lent and onward.
Will you be observing lent? What practices do you follow?