Lent is one of the most unifying traditions in Christianity. Both Catholics and Protestant churches continue to celebrate Lent to this day, through both fasting and prayer. Yet in most of my experiences with Lent, there seems to be a casual indifference or reluctance to participate in this celebrated tradition. This is not to say that Lent isn’t important to the Church, but rather that is certainly one of the more difficult traditions. It seems that one of the major temptations against Lent is nonchalance towards practicing it; It has the danger of falling by the wayside, similar to an unaccomplished New Year’s resolution.
Personally, I’ve struggled with this passivity towards Lent whenever this time comes around. My family seemed to always find an excuse not to practice fasting during Lent; our lives were much too busy and we thrived in our routine. I always recognized when Lent and Easter came around, but I always found excuses to not give anything up. My lackadaisical attitude towards Lent continued throughout high school and into college. I jokingly told people that I gave up chocolate for Lent, which I never ate anyway. Everything seemed much to valuable and it was much easier to just not think about it and put it off to next year.
Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to Lent is how difficult and painful it can be; it hurts to give up something you find valuable, even if it’s something that seems inconsequential. In his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis talks about how one of the spirits has an angel burn away his corruption, personified by a lizard on his shoulder. Yet this entire process is utterly painful for the spirit; the pain of giving up his sin feels akin to death. Even though it is for his betterment, he begs the angel not to kill his corruption.
However, this shows the real significance of Lent: despite how painful it may be, Lent encourages us to give up something that ultimately distracts us from God. People like myself are too quick to ignore Lent because we place too high a value on flawed things. Lewis’s spirit places too high a value on his own corruption and sin. Despite this, what we value is utter vanity in comparison to God. Thus, Lent eliminates distractions from God so that we may focus on Him alone. After all, isn’t God’s goodness the reason for Easter? In an act of unparalleled sacrifice, Jesus sacrificed Himself for us. Lent allows us to honor that sacrifice by giving up our distractions, so that we may truly rejoice in God during Easter. We become more Christ-like when we copy his self-sacrificial love and let go of what we erroneously assume is important.
Over the forty days of Lent, we too are able to sacrifice in order to emulate Christ. For me, that has helped put into perspective how truly exceptional the death of Christ was. We reflect on Christ’s sacrifice throughout Lent so that we may rejoice his Resurrection when Easter arrives.
Caldon Driscoll (’21) is a Templeton scholar studying Biology and English Writing. In his free time, he enjoys reading a wide range of books, from classic literature to young adult fiction.