As the spring season is upon us all, many people of the Christian faith are looking forward to the holiday during which they celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. While the Easter season may conjure up thoughts of bunnies, chocolate, and lacy dresses for many in the secular, mainstream world, the Easter season can actually be quite different for some Christians.
In preparation for Easter Sunday, many Christians around the world, particularly those of the Catholic faith, will participate in the practice of Lent. Lent , traditionally begins on Ash Wednesday, which normally falls during the last week in February. However, the exact date of Ash Wednesday will vary from year to year, as it is reliant upon the date of Easter Sunday itself. During the Ash Wednesday service, parishioners usually decide upon some sort of “fast” that they will engage in between that day and the arrival of Easter Sunday. Traditionally these fasts involve giving up some types of food types, like deserts, drinking soda pop, or even meat on Fridays. However, many modern day partakers in the Lenten season have opted for giving up things such as their morning cup of Starbucks coffee, their daily distraction of facebook.com (or other social networking sites), or even talking online through various chat programs. The service typically concludes with “the parting of the ashes,” during which every person receives a cross (from ashes) on their foreheads (which is to be worn for the remainder of the day).
While some people view the period of Lent as a very solemn, sullen time, during which the participators mourn the death (before the resurrection) of their Lord. However, pastors and priests now are encouraging their congregations to not look upon the Lenten season as one of only mourning, but instead they should use it to contemplate and meditate various aspects of their life and faith. Not only are Christians encouraged to lay down various parts of their lives during the fast, but they are also encouraged to pick up others-more devout praying, increased reading of the Bible, and perhaps evening bettering personal relationships with family and friends. If one desires to participate in the Lenten season, he is encouraged to choose a fast that will actually require a certain amount of self-discipline the give up but one that is also not impossible for him to do. In addition to this, one is encouraged to spend that time that they normally would be spending during that activity on bettering themselves as a Christian and as a person in general. The Lenten season is truly meant to be one where individuals learn and apply more discipline to their lives while focusing on the sacrificial act of Jesus and how they should live their own lives as a result.