Saturday, 24 February 2018

Lent reflections 2: giving up and self denial


Photograph of the Permissive Path by Syd Spence

Matthew 4:1-2

After this, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he finally became hungry.

We are often urged to give up things we like to eat or do during Lent. The abstinence that many experience during Lent cannot be considered fasting, merely giving up little unhealthy luxuries. When we go without something for any length of time we become hungry. We might miss a favourite television programme, or not go to the gym for a while, but can this hunger cannot compare with true fasting? What's it to be? Give up chocolate, delete your Facebook account, stop smoking, give up alcohol?

We all choose to mark Lent in different ways and more often than not focus on abstaining from something we enjoy, but is this always good for us? Perhaps trying to lead an ascetic way of life for forty days may not be right for us if our motivations are not rooted in God's love.

The months of February and March are quite a bleak time anyway, why then are we so fixated on fasting, abstaining and giving stuff up? Perhaps there is a desire for a 'freeing asceticism' if we can find a way to carry it out.

In the hustle and bustle of consumerism many are now turning to the minimalist approach; de-cluttering and being more simplistic. Modern life is often fraught and hectic and we long to step off the rolling-road and find tranquillity, somewhere to be with others, to be with God.

Abstaining from high-calorie foods and buying-in to the diet industry with its promises of feeling better about oneself, we often find ourselves utilising these supposedly ascetic practices. Many rely on the Internet and have iPads, tablets, smart phones, overtaking our lives, and even when all we want to do is turn them off, we just can't bring ourselves to do it – just in case.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if true asceticism will lead us to the freedom and prayerfulness that we long for.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Lent Reflections 1 - Shadows

It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.

The earliest mention of Lent in church history is in 325 AD and is referred to in Greek as 'tessarakonta'. Translated, this means forty – the length of time that Jesus is said to have spent in the wilderness at the beginning of his public ministry. The number forty is used as a symbolic period of time, just as we use umpteen or aeons when we do not have an exact measurement.

In English, Lent derives from Anglo-Saxon and means lengthen. Lent begins when days are lengthening as spring approaches. We too can lengthen spiritually - we can stretch out and grow in the Spirit.

Just as the sun was thought to do the work of lengthening the days during early springtime, so it is the sun – in the sense of God’s warmth and light – that does this work in our lengthening and growing in Christ. In the English language there is a beautiful play on the words sun and son. Just as the sun was seen to do the work of lengthening the days in spring, so it is the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who does the work of lengthening in our spiritual growth. This image provides a comfort for us in our busy lives. During Lent, let us unite with God’s grace and find time to relax in the presence of God.

A shadow lengthening sounds gloomy, but without the sun there are no shadows. As the days grow longer, shadows stretch out. When we see shadows we know that the sun is with us, just as the Son of God, is with us too, always.

Karen Ette 14th February 2018
Photographs by Syd Spence