Thursday, February 18, 2010

On the absence of fasting in Lent

Christ in the desert
Moretto de Brescia

"...on that day, they will fast."

Lent is a season of fasting. Many today do not realize that fasting of essential to this season of penitence. However, the forty day preparation for Easter finds its origin with the desire of Christians to imitate Christ our Lord in his forty day fast in the desert. Thus, Lent has suffered much when the discipline of its fast has been relaxed and reduced to those of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. What is Lent without its fast? It is like a dog that barks but cannot bite. Ask around the impact of Lent on the lives of many ordinary Catholics. Sure, people came to church to receive ashes on their foreheads but that was all there was to it. Lent has simply become an occasion to sing "sad songs" in church, a time for priests to wear purple vestments and for us to engage in stations of the cross. But without the fast, would Lent truly be what it was intended to be: an imitation of Christ's forty day fast in the desert?

Let us return to the this revered discipline of the Lenten fast. Ramadan continues to be the holiest time of the Islamic year because of its fast. Modernity has not at all affected their fast but we have allowed it to affect ours. And this is unfortunate. For what we have done has not only taken the tooth out of Lent, it has also lessened our anticipation of Easter.

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