by Judi McLaren
Leniency and Lent: What is Expected and Acceptable
Are the Temptations too Much?
Throughout the majority of the Lenten practice, we are subjected to various temptations. Perhaps it is the promise of spring, warmer days, fresh air, the beginning of outdoor activity starts anew as the vernal equinox approaches.
The residual effects of Mardi Gras are associated with the start of Lent itself, the last “hurrah” before your commitment begins, and can be difficult for some to be satisfied with. The pall of “sinning” hangs across our shoulders like a weighted cloak of doom lest we break our vow to remain pure for 40 days. ( 46 if you count Sundays )
Media associative advertisements for the modern ages to partake in sweets, chocolates, meal deals, and restaurant reservations to celebrate Easter, promises of newly crafted potables, green-dyed beverages, and feasts of calorie clad corned beef suppers or other boiled dinners . While singing the songs reserved to revere St. Patrick, the snake charmer has widened the spread from the days of hot cross buns and challah bread.
The snakes were and remained to be significant in analogy to Pagans. Again, the comparative to sinning, sacrifice, and atonement. For was it not Eve herself who in the Garden of Eden gave in to the temptation of Pagan sinning before the eyes of God and allowed the serpentine image to lead her off the path of righteousness?
Staying true to Lent is tough. It was meant to be. But that doesn’t lend credence to finding ways to become overly complacent or lenient. There are ways to balance both old values and new traditions.
Common Misconceptions About Fasting
Forty days without food is enough to send anyone into fits of dietary distress. And while vegans and pescatarians or those medically diagnosed with certain specific food and health-related ailments could easily keep to the food side of a Lenten fast. Unfortunately, the vast majority of uninformed people believe that a traditional Lent means absolutely no solid food whatsoever must be pledged. To clarify, during Lent, it is only on Ash Wednesday and Fridays that certain types of meat should not be partaken of if you are a staunch practitioner. As an example, in the Catholic faith, you are only expected to fast from the meats of warm-blooded Mammalia class meats and birds on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent.
What kind of Meat Can You Eat During Lent?
The leniency allowed is fish and seafood and of course, fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs, and milk. With the upswing of organic food trends, vegans, vegetarians, or those just going a greener way of living, plant-based meats are being debated among some Archdioceses as being an acceptable replacement or not. Some argue that to substitute real meat for plant-based is “kind of missing the point” The one commonality is those under 14 years old or over 65 are truly and religiously exempt from fasting. !!this does NOT include those with a medically diagnosed condition and those with any health issues should ALWAYS consult with a physician before undertaking any fasting or dietary change if you are concerned about after effects!!
Ways to Last During a New World Fast
Lenten fasting does not strictly mandate that it is all about food. Today, there are other ways to devote to your faith and still sacrifice without feeling pressured by religious rigidity. Unlike the food fast, which only states that Fridays are reserved for Lent, these alternate suggestions can be done every day during the 40-day rite.
- Don’t buy what you don’t need. If it isn’t essential, save your money and put it in a Lent jar. Count up your savings after 40 days. You might end up extending this to 365 days.
- If you don’t use it, remove it. Make it a point every day to reconsider why you are hanging onto something in clear sight of you don’t use it? Declutter your soul and your living space at the same time. One article a day, and your one step away from total simplicity and renewal.
- Speaking of stepping, do more of it. Improve your overall fitness by substituting a nightly flop into the sofa to maybe a 15-minute walk around the block or stretching while keeping your eye on a favorite tv program. Folding laundry or picking out a few outfits for the rest of your week and breaking out the ironing board as a special treat.
- Stay connected online but avoid gossiping or getting lured into social drama, especially right before bedtime. Even considering removing the television from your bedroom can enhance your nightly sleep.
- Pet owner? Start spending more time with them. Bonding with a family pet is remarkably stress-free and healthy for both pet and owner.
- Enroll in a fitness class or another general interest course.
- Replace that “nothing on tv” time with a devotional study, meditation, or prayer.
- Start a year-long diary. It needn’t be chapters or even paragraphs. Just a couple of words here and there describing your feelings or recollection of a daily event that touched your spirit.
- Feed your belly and feed a homeless person. Make a weekly contribution to a local food pantry with a set monetary goal dependent upon your own financial budget. Maybe you’ve seen the same homeless person at the same location daily. Drop off a small bagged lunch with snacks, a bottle of water, maybe some dollar store toiletries.
The Way, the Truth, and the Light will Sustain You Through Lent
No doubt, you can come up with dozens of alternate ways to make a change during 40 days and then some. But, removing your burden should be the outcome of your fast, no matter which style you follow. The reward is astounding, for the words of Matthew 25 have vilified the reason for our atonement:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
When you find your spirit weakening or your mind wandering during your fast, breathe deep and fill your inner core with divinity, devotion, and connection to your intention. Don’t harp on a failure should you happen to slide off track. Therefore, we celebrate Lent in the first place: we are all just humans, and none is a model of perfection. Thus, as Jesus saves, we must follow as close we can in every way we can. To do otherwise would truly mean living in the dark.