Lenten Meditations: What About Lent and Fasting?

Pastoral Reflections

Observing a fast during Lent has been a longstanding tradition. One of the earliest references we have from historians on the subject is a letter by Irenaeus, an early church father who lived mostly in the 2nd century (about c. 130 – 202). There, he alluded to the practice of a pre-Easter fast and lack of uniformity regarding the length of days, also mentioning that this variation has been existent before his time.

The idea of 40 days of Lent became more uniform across Christianity sometime following the Council of Nicaea in 325. These and more have given students of church history reason to believe that fasting, as a marker of the Lenten season, emerged rather early in Christian history.

Like many things that continue long enough to become imbedded tradition, it can gradually also become mundane. As we consider giving up a pleasure in observance of Lent, I encourage us to call to mind that a fast should eventually point to something bigger than itself. The object of our fast ought to be Christ and a rekindling of our dedication to Him.

Hence, the question, “What might be good to give up for Lent?” becomes a trigger for personal reflection. What things tend so easily to compete with my attention to Christ and the spiritual walk? How would letting go for a season help release me and redirect my focus spiritually? You may be surprised what emerges. Some of them may not even be the conventional kinds of things we quickly think of when fasting comes to mind. Then for a season, hopefully, you would find that spiritual discipline unique to your own life and walk of faith.