“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matt. 4:4
Dear Redeemer Family:
The Season of Lent is in some respects really a time of shifting the eyes. We purposefully strive to shift our eyes away from this temporary mortal world in which we find ourselves, and try to concentrate more on the eternal world of God. We find ourselves in two realms, to paraphrase St. Augustine. Christians are in this world, but not of it. Our allegiance, if you will, is to the eternal realms of the Kingdom of God. The forty days of the Lenten Season is to remind us of that. We try to more consciously live out our faith. As we walk through this earth, we may lose, or forget, the things that come from God. We may become blinded by the physical things that surround us. The very basics of life may interfere with our walks of faith. Literally, food, shelter and clothing may move to the center of our lives. And we forget that it is at the center of our lives that God belongs.
The traditional disciplines of Lent have been used for centuries, really millennia, as methods to remind us of what is important. More attention to our prayer lives by supplementing ourselves with Lenten devotions to remind us that we are not alone in this world. We have a heavenly Father who is with us all of the time of our lives. Our days should begin and end with thoughts of God, and in between as well. The tradition of fasting, though it is now most commonly just the giving up of meat on Fridays, teaches that literally, we “do not live by bread alone.” There is something far greater that gives us daily sustenance. The old tradition of giving something up for Lent is not just a form of self-denial. Traditionally, a person gave up something that they really enjoyed. Its purpose was really to teach that the things of this earth should not have a hold over us. And many people over the centuries, rather than giving something up, instead try to do some good towards others intentionally during this season. I personally like that way better.
These exercises are really of a spiritual nature. That may be a surprise to some. But, here is the real shocker. The intention was not that they only be done during the forty days of Lent. But that the Christian should continue to keep up these practices after Lent was finished, and so continue to grow spiritually and walk more fully in their faith. The purpose of Lent, among other emphases, is to teach us that truly, we do not live by these outward observances, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
May we all grow closer to God during this Lenten Season, whether we observe the ancient practices or not. But, I think that you will find that they do indeed help.