What Does Lent Mean to You?

[A previous post didn’t get the attention I’d hoped for, so I’m republishing it. – Funky]

"The Teutonic word Lent, which we employ to denote the forty days’ fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season. Still it has been used from the Anglo-Saxon period to translate the more significant Latin term quadragesima (French carême, Italian quaresima, Spanish cuaresma), meaning the ‘forty days’, or more literally the ‘fortieth day’. This in turn imitated the Greek name for Lent, tessarakoste (fortieth), a word formed on the analogy of Pentecost (pentekoste), which last was in use for the Jewish festival before New Testament times. This etymology, as we shall see, is of some little importance in explaining the early developments of the Easter fast." – Catholic Encyclopedia

Lent starts early this year. Ash Wednesday is February 9. That’s less than a week away. Are you planning on performing any acts of penance? Being a Catholic convert from fairly high-church Lutheranism, I don’t know much about "low-church" Protestant observances of Lent or lack thereof. I’d like very much to know how non-Catholics, particularly Evangelicals and liberals/progressives, observe Lent.

If you are a Protestant (of any flavor), I have a mission for you, should you choose to accept it (queue Mission Impossible music). I’d like to know how you, your church, and/or your denomination observe (or don’t observe) Ash Wednesday and Lent. If you don’t have a blog, please consider leaving a comment to tell me what Lent means to you. If you do have a blog, please consider writing a post about what Lent means to you. Trackback this post and I’ll write a carnival-like post to tie the entries together. Also, please promote this meme on your blog. Thanks in advance. 🙂

Comments 21

  1. Steve N wrote:

    If you came to appreciate the Church’s teachings on 1 and 2, do you suppose you could overlook 3? It seems like an awfully small thing.

    Well, 3 is a thing that I should be (and in principle am) willing to give up… but it’s deeper than just behavior. And, BTW, it is no small thing to the Church… contraception is (by my understanding) a grave sin. The problem is that NFP (its allowance in principle) makes it (i.e., contraception) a very difficult sin to detect, since NFP can be used for contraception and that would be a sin. The church’s teaching (by my understanding) is to have as many children as you can rightly raise and afford. NFP is supposed to be practiced ONLY (this is my understanding) for “natural spacing” of children or for cases of serious medical conditions or for serious poverty. This is just too open ended. Either the faithful are “free to choose” (gawd, that phrase grates on me somef’n bad…) when and how many children they should have (with obviously a strong bias in favor of many… say 3 or more) or they aren’t. WE’VE GOT 5 KIDS FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE… we’re open for more, but just not quite yet. Our youngest is 2, so we’ve more than passed natural spacing… Could we afford more? Probably. I’m a firm believer in NOT providing everything for the little darlings (future hard working adults). We have an 1800 ft^2 house, so yeah we could fit 2-3 more I s’pect… just take 2 cars everywhere. Of course, we’re homeschooling so that would make the daily insanity ’round here a bit more hectic. Would the church allow NFP for homeschooling reasons? Hmm???… And I’m just not willing to lay aside the “unitive aspect” for “certain epochs” until we’re “ready” for more. And, this is really the point, even if I WAS willing and did do so (i.e., practice NFP), I’d have no assurance, according to RCC teaching, that I was doing so for the “right reasons” and might very well be sinning anyway…

    But this supposed to be about Lent…


    Posted 06 Feb 2005 at 6:03 am
  2. Funky Dung wrote:

    Actually, I’m looking for Protestants to blog about it. Don’t let that stop you, though. 😉

    Posted 03 Feb 2005 at 9:07 pm
  3. Amy wrote:

    all right, all right, I’ll blog about Lent… 😉 but you’ll have to give me until Sunday because tonight is TV NIGHT and I leave for my pre-lent retreat tomorrow right after work.

    Posted 03 Feb 2005 at 8:54 pm
  4. Douglas wrote:

    BlogExplosion just served you up to me.

    Posted 03 Feb 2005 at 8:39 pm
  5. Jerry Nora wrote:

    BTW, Humanae Vitae is the very unpopular encyclical that Paul VI published confirming the Church’s opposition to artificial birth control. Ergo, “prudence” is not some whitewash that we threw onto a controversial doctrine to make it purtier for the Protestants. (And Orthodox, these days…alas.)

    Posted 07 Feb 2005 at 12:14 am
  6. Funky Dung wrote:

    Could be interesting. 🙂

    Posted 03 Feb 2005 at 10:02 pm
  7. Funky Dung wrote:

    Could you give a URL? I got a little lost while looking around the site.

    Posted 04 Feb 2005 at 1:43 am
  8. Steve N wrote:

    Emily, that is a very good (and perceptive) question. No it’s not too personal. Basically, I cannot bring myself into agreement with the RCC’s teaching on the following issues:

    1) assumption of Mary
    2) supremacy of Rome, papal infallibility (in cathedra)
    3) barrier contraception and “related” issues

    I guess basically at heart I really am an Evangelical… i.e., constant theological/practical reinvention. It just so happens that I’ve somehow managed to reinvented myself into an almost Roman Catholic (ARC) 🙂

    Go figger’

    Posted 05 Feb 2005 at 9:34 pm
  9. Funky Dung wrote:

    I bump into blogs I know from time to time as well. While you’re here, how about giving me a nice rating? I’ll be sure to return the favor. 🙂

    Posted 03 Feb 2005 at 8:42 pm
  10. Amy wrote:

    I think the first time you posted this stuff I thought you were talking to the protestants. Since they weren’t stepping up I figured I’d try to get something started.
    How ’bout if my husband blogs about it? He’s not protestant, but he’s not exactly Catholic (yet) either.

    Posted 03 Feb 2005 at 9:45 pm
  11. Funky Dung wrote:

    If you came to appreciate the Church’s teachings on 1 and 2, do you suppose you could overlook 3? It seems like an awfully small thing.

    Posted 05 Feb 2005 at 10:18 pm
  12. Jerry wrote:

    In addition to cutting back on the Internet, I’m trying to get back to the alms-giving aspect of Lent. I’ve reckoned that if I kick my habit of using coffeeshops in lieu of 8 hrs. of sleep a night, the money I’d save could buy a pregnancy center an ultrasound machine…

    Just kidding about the ultrasound machine, but I could probably donate a decent chunk to Birthright or CareNet, and help some needy mothers out.

    Posted 03 Feb 2005 at 5:27 pm
  13. The Gray Monk wrote:

    Like some of your other commentators, I would fit as an Anglo-Catholic as a High Church member of the Church of England. That disqualifies me to comment on the Protestant observance of Lent I guess, but I try to give up something and take up something I do not usually do, such as reading new theological books or studying a particular book of the Bible. My fast tends to be a simple reduction of the non-essentials such as desert after dinner or snacks between meals.

    We tend to forget do we not, that the Lenten Fast was often a necessity to our forebears as the food stocks would be getting really low at this time of year!

    As the Jews say – I wish you all “Well over the fast”.

    Posted 05 Feb 2005 at 10:33 pm
  14. Tom Smith wrote:

    Not a Protestant either, but I wanted to let people know I’m doing this so I’m held to it.

    I’ve decided to do the full traditional Eastern-rite fast. Since last Sunday, the Sunday of Meatfare, I have abstained from meat (I said *fare*well to meat, hence the name). From this coming Sunday (the Sunday of Cheesefare), I will abstain from dairy, eggs, olive oil, and alcohol*. In addition to the Eastern fast, I will be observing the Roman-rite traditions of eating only one large and two small meals daily, not eating between meals, and fasting completely on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

    *it’s interesting to note that most of these things were once part of the Roman Lenten tradition, but were dropped.

    Posted 04 Feb 2005 at 4:41 am
  15. Emily T wrote:

    Steve –

    I had a couple of friends over last night and we got into a discussion about NFP. I’m not married, so my knowledge of it is fairly limited (and I’m sorry that I turned the topic so far off of Lent). However, my one married friend who was here last night said that each and every month it is supposed to be discerned prayerfully between the spouses if they will try to have a child that month, or if there are serious and grave reasons (which, admittedly, the Church does not explain fully, to my knowledge) to avoid pregnancy. I know that this doesn’t help your arguments, however, if you haven’t before, I’d encourage you to read “Good News About Sex and Marriage” by Christopher West.

    And thank you for answering my question. I am a convert like Funky. Actually, we went through RCIA together and are coming up on our five year anniversary of being welcomed into the Church. So I am always curious to know people’s reasons for not coming into the Church, particularly when it seems they are so closely aligned with the teachings of the Church.


    Posted 06 Feb 2005 at 1:18 pm
  16. Emily T wrote:

    Steve N –

    After reading a number of your posts on Funky’s web site, I’m curious to know why your aren’t Catholic? I hope that’s not too personal a question to ask. But just in response to the Lent question, you are doing more than most Catholics I know, and engaging in a lot of Lenten observances that Catholics should. So, I was just wondering!

    Posted 05 Feb 2005 at 8:54 pm
  17. Amy wrote:

    Step in to my office, if you will… let’s look at this NFP thing some more…

    Posted 07 Feb 2005 at 9:30 pm
  18. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Steve, Humanae Vitae said that prudence should judge how many children you raise–it is not some mathematical excerise in optimization or maximization, as it were. Some, like Kimberly Hahn, tend to veer in the direction that we should pop ’em out like mad, but I think they’re tending in that extreme to emphasize that we, as married couples, should always be open to a new child, whether or not the child was “planned”.

    Posted 07 Feb 2005 at 12:12 am
  19. Sarah wrote:

    Well I’m an Anglican but would NEVER describe myself as a protestant!

    I’m fasting for Lent in the more traditional way of not eating indulgently but simply and only at meal times.

    Also have a look at the discussion thread over at http://www.wibsite.com

    Posted 04 Feb 2005 at 12:17 am
  20. Steve N wrote:

    Yeah, I know about prudence, and I agree it should be a governing principle, just like there should a high cultural value placed on fecundity–a practically Luddite position in modernity’s fecal zeitgeist. The problem is defining what it should be in every unique situation, and at once placing my mortal soul in jeopardy if I don’t get it right. (Honey, are we FMP-ing for prudence or FMP-ing to contracept?) You’ll find no greater defender of the “unplanned” than me. Heck, I’ll even admit to a certain holy recklessness as pertains to taking a chance on making a baby… I’ve even started on a song about it!! But the problem is taking and turning good principles (e.g., like St. Paul’s principled but nebulous “It’s better for a man not to marry, but still okay if he does”) into dogma.


    PS. sorry ’bout the Eagles… we were rootin’

    Posted 07 Feb 2005 at 5:06 am
  21. Steve N wrote:

    You realize, Funky, that announcing our “good deeds” before “men” wastes any heavenly reward we might gain. That being said, few people here actually know who I am, so maybe I’ll get off the hook. At any rate, I’m not looking for rewards… Failing that, I s’pose the general discussion might be edifying… so here are my plans, some of which I’ve alluded to before. (God forgive me)

    On Ash Wed, I will not consume any calorie-bearing sustenance and will attend noon svc at our local Whippany (Our Lacy of Mercy) RC church (across the street from where I work) to receive the sign of ash. This is my one RCC service per year and I will not (in deference to the Church’s laws) receive the host.

    From Ash Wed thru Holy Sat (save for Sundays), neither I nor my family members will watch TV or eat mammalian tissue that required animal’s death (e.g. milk/cheese allowed, jell-o and hamburgers not). I, myself, will further abstain from any internet browsing, save for that required by work, e.g., Lucent intranet, doc management, etc. Email will be allowed, however. Again Sundays will be excepted. Others in my family may choose to give up other things. E.g., my wife plans to give up chocolate and desserts. My eldest son (13) has not yet stated his plans for this year, but has in the past given up video games (gameboy, sega).

    Since our church doesn’t have Maundy Thurs services, we may go to a local LCMS church for such. We’ve thought about but never done this in the past.

    After dinner (or communion if applicable) Maundy Thursday, it is my normal practice not to consume any caloric sustenance (i.e., black coffee and water diet) until Easter morning. This makes for a rather joyous Easter morning!

    Note none of this is the practice of my church, and if they found out, they’d think I was crazy. Such is the sad state of American evangelicalism. Last year I suggested a Maundy Thurs communion service and they thot I was absolutely crazy–too traditional they said. “What?” they exclaimed, “We already have a Good Fri Svc?!” I say it’s the most counter-cultural (i.e., NON traditional) thing we could possibly do! [What was it Chesterton said? Defense of cardinal virtues today has all the exhilaration of a vice!] Modern Evangelicalism utterly refuses to see Christian life bundled together with Church; and utterly refuses to see Church bundled together with salvation/sanctification. Such poverty, thorough-going compartmentalization, is perhaps the best evidence of modernity’s corrosive effects on the Church… (and I’m told the RCC is not immune from such effects) So anyway… rather oddly, I and my family practice such “obscene” rituals outside of our community of faith. This is quite sad, but I hold out hope (perhaps in vain) for a better future.


    Posted 04 Feb 2005 at 3:53 pm

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