What’s up with Lent?

Do you know what the significance of Wednesday, March 9 was? No, not the start of the UMSU elections, but something more global, more renown. Have you ever heard of Lent? Perhaps in conversation over the past week or so? If not, allow me to explain.

During the period of Lent, the observer abstains from an item for the 40 days leading up to Easter. The actual time between Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and Easter totals 46 days, but Sundays are traditionally seen as a day of celebration and therefore are not included. To me, the central idea behind Lent is to give up an aspect of daily life and to spend the time gained serving, praying or worshipping God. The reason of observing such a practice is for one to rid themselves of worldly, tangible things and to rely fully on God.

So where did Lent originate from? Documentation dating back to AD 325 outlines the idea of Lent and its observed practices. When Christianity was legalized by Constantine and Licinus in AD 313, a wave of Christian-related activity stirred up within the Roman Empire. By AD 325, the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea outlined a period of 40 days before Easter referred to as Lent.

But why? What is the rational behind observing Lent? Why would anyone abstain from things so pivotal to our existence? As previously stated: “The reason of observing such a practice is for one to rid themselves of worldly, tangible things and to rely fully on God.” But allow me to expand. As a Christian coming from a Protestant tradition, there has always been a big emphasis on a personal relationship with God. To make any sort of relationship successful, one must dedicate time to the relationship; this is the most basic and fundamental step. If you don’t believe me, ask Dr. Phil, Oprah, Maury or any other person who has their own show, but don’t ask Charlie Sheen; his Ustream.com channel does not count.

Our Western culture has consumed 100 per cent of our most precious commodity . . . our time. It has simply vanished before our eyes. We find ourselves locked in routine, but the observation of Lent permits time for things that may have otherwise been left out of our everyday routine.

This is my first year personally observing Lent. Over the past few years I have seen the practice observed by my peers and by other people in the church. As I progress through the next 46 days, I don’t know what to expect. I have chosen to abstain from food each day until 3 p.m., a practice that has a long history in the Christian church, although the idea of self-denial has declined in popularity over the past few years. This traditional idea has been replaced with a wonderful idea called “intentional giving.” Instead of taking something away from yourself, you give something to others. A great idea that I believe should be incorporated into every person’s lifestyle, whether religious or not.