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The Lenten Journey

Lent is about mortality and transformation. We begin the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday with the sign of the cross smeared on our foreheads with ashes as the words are spoken over us, “Dust thou art, and to dust thou wilt return.” We begin this season of Lent not only reminded of our death, but also marked for death.

The Lenten journey, with its climax in Holy Week and Good Friday andlent1.jpg Easter, is about participating in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Put somewhat abstractly, this means dying to an old identity—the identity conferred by culture, by tradition, by parents, perhaps—and being born into a new identity—an identity centered in the Spirit of God. It means dying to an old way of being, and being born into a new way of being, a way of being centered once again in God.

Put slightly more concretely, this path of death and resurrection, of radical centering in God, may mean for some of us that we need to die to specific things in our lives—perhaps to a behavior or a pattern of behavior that has become destructive or dysfunctional; perhaps to a relationship that has ended or gone bad; perhaps to an unresolved grief that needs to be let go of; perhaps to a career or job that has either been taken from us or that no longer nourishes us; or perhaps even we need to die to a deadness in our lives.

You can even die to deadness, and this dying is also oftentimes a daily rhythm in our lives—that daily occurrence that happens to some of us as we remind ourselves of the reality of God in our relationship to God; that reminder that can take us out of ourselves, lift us out of our confinement, take away our feeling of being burdened and weighed down.

That’s the first focal point of a life that takes Jesus seriously: that radical centering in the Spirit of God that is at the very center of the Christian life.

—Dr. Marcus Borg

Let me share with you a few things you can do to observe Lent :

• Give up something you value, to remind you of what Jesus gave up for you.

• Try to live more simply in all areas of your life: watch less TV, walk instead of driving, observe a quiet period each day.

• Go through your closets and give away clothes that are still in good condition, but that you could do without.

• Clean your home and use spring cleaning to reflect on your spiritual renewal.

• Cook and eat a dish that you always avoid, not necessarily because it repels you but because it is “foreign” and you tend to limit yourself to the familiar.

• Listen to some music you normally can’t “get into.” Wonder if it resonates with something in you, and might not be so bad after all.

• Treat yourself to a meal of rice and tea once a week as a physical sign of concern with the real majority, the hungry world.

• Give up movies or forego some favorite sports events.

• Choose simpler, more healthful meals: less meat, no dessert.

• Do without between meal snacks.

• Give up desserts.

• Eliminate wasteful and expensive habits.

• Drink only water with your meals for one week.

• Eliminate snacking and junk food.

• Give up an hour of TV each day for scripture reading, prayer and reflection.

• Clean house and give unneeded items to charity.

• Give up one big meal a week and donate the money saved to help feed the hungry.

• Serve meat half as often as usual.

• Once or twice a week serve a simple meal that consists of soup or salad, bread, and a beverage.

In the coming weeks I will be publishing some things that I have written as well copied works that will help you observe Lent as a holy and special season of the Christian year. Check back a few times each week and see what’s new on the blog. Your comments are always welcomed.

Additionally, I will publish a weekly prayer guide each Sunday.

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More Thoughts on Fasting


Abba John the Dwarf said, ‘If a king wanted to take possession of his enemy’s city, he would begin by cutting off the water and the food and so his enemies, dying of hunger, would submit to him.  It is the same with the passions of the flesh: if a man goes about fasting and hungry the enemies of his soul grow weak.

 —sayings of the Desert Fathers

The old man makes a really good practical argument for fasting. We seldom think of self-denial in our world, because it is so contrary to our culture. When put in a wartime context it makes good sense. To have as your goal to starve your adversary into submission is a plausible plan. The real challenge is how do we apply this to our lives? I would venture to say that if you fasted once a week and turned your hunger into prayer, you would feel closer to God and more distant from the world. John is saying that a man who is fasting has little time for temptation, but he who is full has energy and desire for sin. This may be a way that you can turn your attention away from some of the less desirable aspects of your life

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Filed under Ascetics, Desert Fathers, Fasting