a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, 3 days before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic Churches. ~ Wikipedia
Those of us who were part of the Jesus Revolution in the 70-ies were not much for religious traditions. In fact we prided ourselves in being non-conformist, anti-religious-system iconoclasts and living a life of cutting edge missionary experience seeing God doing miracles daily in the form of guidance, provision, and protection. The only "tradition" we took with us from the past was observing communion, as instituted by Jesus Himself.
Communion would often be preceded by real soul-searching, apologizing to anybody we had wronged, clearing up grievances and finding forgiveness, and it would usually end with prayer and prophecy, a genuine spiritual two-way communication with Jesus - we talked to Him and He talked to us and showed us the way.
Christmas and Easter were special - especially as an opportunity to share the message. I don't remember ever observing Lent, perhaps because the Jesus movement came out of the evangelical tradition.
We were not playing at religion, it was real, it was intense, it was radical and thrilling. Personally I was never much for the ascetics of fasting and self-flaggelation.
At one point however I realised that as much as I personally disliked traditions and empty ceremonies there is something to be said for their value as a means of providing stability and identity for children, especially if the meaning and purpose for those traditions is made clear.
For those who do observe Lent, now is the season...
I am not Catholic, and I think there is much you can criticized about that organisation, but I have to say that do like Pope Francis' message. I think he's been trying to remind his flock of the real meaning and purpose behind traditions. His message is usually to the point, universal and often has relevance to current events.
Last year he had this to say...
A thought from Pope Francis for Lent - 2017
Do you want to fast this Lent?
- Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
- Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
- Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
- Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
- Fast from worries and trust in God.
- Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
- Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
- Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
- Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
- Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
- Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.
It resonates with the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament, when he summed up God's view on fasting...
5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? 6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:
11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
~ Isaiah 58:5-11
Not bad counsel - happy pre-Easter!