Sunday, 25 February 2007

Musings on Lent

What finally prompted me to start blogging was the discussion of Lenten Sundays on Mac's page (ooh, I think I might just have answered my first question!), together with all the other similar pages that are linked to it. I'm of the "Sunday is a day of rejoicing on which you shouldn't fast, and the 40 days of Lent don't include the Sundays" school of thought. I think support for this view comes from the fact that I understand the Orthodox Lent is 8 weeks long, because in the early days of the Orthodox Church neither Saturday nor Sunday was a day of fasting, and extra weekdays had to be added to replace the non-fasting Saturdays.

From what I've read, most priests and commentators are fairly quiet - not to say (at times) wishy-washy - on the subject, a rare few coming down firmly on one side or the other (mostly on the side of excluding Sundays from Lenten observance), while others say something like, "Go for whatever you think, because the way you observe Lent is your own free choice anyway, and you're only obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday". Hmm, cheers for the guidance!

So am I, as some people seem to suggest, less of a Catholic for enjoying a nice meal, and maybe a bit of chocolate and a glass of wine on a Sunday in Lent? Shouldn't I be making it reeeeeeally hard for myself? Am I "copping out" and taking the easy route? Well actually, chaps, you can keep your hair shirts - I'm going to carry on keeping Sunday special and enjoying my celebration of the Lord's Day. (You see how I make my own choice seem like the morally superior one - annoying, isn't it?!)

I was interested to see on one of the sites I looked at last week that "guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offence or causing enmity" are excused from fast and abstinence (and remember, that's on the days when fast and abstinence are definitely required - Ash Wednesday and Good Friday).

Now, my self-imposed Lenten fast is a personal thing which I hope will help deepen my relationship with God through prayer. It's not something that I want to shove down people's throats - when I get the inevitable question, "What are you giving up for Lent?", I just mutter something about alcohol and chocolate - I'm not doing it for them, so why should I boast about it to them?

So there are occasions outside of Sundays when I reluctantly break my fast to avoid causing offence. In fact, there's one coming up this week - the members of my department at work (3 practising Catholics, 2 practising Anglicans and 2 non-Christians) have been given some chocolates, and the head of department (one of the Catholics) has suggested that we share them on St David's Day (none of us being Welsh), as that's a feast day. If I acted all holier than thou and refused to share the chocolates with them, would my continuing fast make me a better person in the eyes of God, or would my taking the supposed moral high ground and making the others feel bad make me a worse person?

I find it comforting that the Church apparently recognises my dilemma, and agrees with me that I'm not "copping out" - far from it, I actually find it more difficult and painful in many ways to break the fast than it would be to act all pious and offend the other person.

As for now, it's Sunday evening and there's a mug of hot chocolate with my name on it...

1 comment:

newhousenewjob said...

Update - the box of chocolates was put out on the table during the meeting on St David's Day, but nobody wanted to be the one to open it. Chocolates now back in the cupboard until April and dilemma avoided! :¬)