Sunday, February 18, 2007

Have a Holy Lent

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The central spiritual practice of Lent is fasting. tells us that there are 2 types of fasting.
Corporal Fasting
First, we have Corporal, or External Fasting. This is the familiar giving up of certain foods or food groups that many people do for Lent. In the Western Church we are to refrain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, and all the Fridays of Lent. Additionally, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we are to eat no more than one full meal and 2 smaller meals. There are those Eastern Christians who give up animal products, oil and wine for the entire Lenten season.

Also included in Corporal Fasting is the idea of "fasting from amusements." This was thought to be very important by the early Church Fathers. In our modern culture, where we are never without "amusements" at the touch of a button, perhaps we should re-examine this aspect of Corporal fasting. When we turn off the outside entertainment that is literally all around us now, what is left in our minds and souls?

Spiritual Fasting
The other type of fasting is Spiritual or Internal Fasting, which involves, basically, fasting from all types of sin. Lest you think that would be unnecessary or too easy, take a look at this list of sins of the tongue from scripture. (Hat tip to this web page.)

  1. Gossip( 2 Cor. 12:20, 1 Tim. 5:13)
  2. Lying (Acts 5:4, Col. 3:9)
  3. Angry Talk (2 Cor. 12:20, Col. 3:8)
  4. Quarreling (1 Cor. 3:3, 2 Tim. 2:23-24)
  5. Slander (Eph 4:31, James 4:11)
  6. Coarse Joking (Eph. 5:4)
  7. Obscenity (Eph. 5:4, Col. 3:8)
  8. Blasphemy (1 Tim 1:20, 6:1)
  9. Boasting (2 Tim., 3:2, James 4:16)
  10. Distortion of the Truth (2 Cor. 2-17, 4:2)
  11. Godless Chatter (1 Tim. 6:20, 2 Tim. 2:16)
  12. Flattery (1 Thess. 2:5, Jude 16)
I think the first 8 or so on the above list are fairly self explanatory and familiar to most of us. Gossip is probably one we learn early on and is very difficult to break for many. Gossip does not necessarily involve lying about another person. Merely sharing a confidence, or something personal about another falls into this category. Just because it is true, doesn't make it right to share. Lying is is the opposite extreme and probably one of the first sins we learn about as children.

Angry talk, quarreling and slander are both common and closely related.

Years ago, coarse joking and obscenities were something that sometimes took place in smoke filled rooms out of the range of women and children. Now, such things are on television even during what used to be called "the family hour" and are difficult to get away from. Characters in sitcoms have no compunction about referring to p*rnography as if were a normal, healthy past time. Take a look at the atmosphere you are immersed in during the next 6 weeks of Lent, and be aware of this, unfortunately, very common sin.

Blasphemy is another common phenomenon these days. Making light of the One God is fair game in many circles, but it is a sin.

I liked the definition I found of boasting -- self-centered talk. Distortion of the truth involves mixing the false with the true in order to gain something that we want. How many of us use these tactics in life to get by or get ahead? Godless chatter is another very common one, I think. It involves empty, misleading, babbling.

Our last sin of the tongue to avoid this Lent, is the sin of flattery. Flattery is a sin!? Yep. Flattery is a sin when it is used for our own gain, or is untrue.

This puts me in mind of the monastic tradition of silence. Sometimes it is good to maintain exterior silence, for the good of our own souls and those around us.

So, there is plenty to fast from during Lent, and for the rest of our lives.

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