A certain old man said, “Reduce thy knowledge of the things of man, and thy belly also, and thou shalt find all [manner of] delights.”
That time of year is upon us again. A time for renewed discipline, focus, renewal, and rejuvenation. Lent is not for the faint-hearted.
While Lent means a time for abstinence and restriction – but not just of food. Fasting is not a matter of appetite, it’s a thing pertaining to the whole person. When time is taken away from our self-pampering, we find ways to fill our time and thoughts with higher things.
The more we spend time on trivial things – whether music, news, appetite, video games or other things – the less time we may spend on the things that matter. Fasting is not saying that the things we’re fasting from are necessarily bad. It’s saying, let’s focus on something right for once. It’s a refocus of sorts.
I remember a period in service where all of us servants were super-hot about the issues we were facing. We were bringing our A-Game every single meeting. We were asking about everyone, paying attention to everything, just…energised, focused, and zealous.
Over time, our meetings got reduced to reports from sub-committees. Every September, at the beginning of the church and school year, we’d renew our plans for what we would do to make up for fallings of the previous year. It’d be the same plan.
Meeting content lost spiritual focus, and moved toward the logistical. Instead of hours discussing the intimate issues plaguing all of us and our youth, we were talking about ‘other’ things. We talked about whether we had enough drivers for an event or enough people to prepare food.
The thing is, that shift was not evil. It’s not like we stopped caring about the higher things. It’s also not suggesting that some of those issues were unworthy of discussion. The point is that we lost the core, the essence, the substance of our meetings. We got caught up in a different kind of knowledge than the one we started with.
That’s the meaning of the saying above.
So, Lent, like our meetings, is a nice period where we come back to our origins to ask what we’re doing in life. I was listening to a podcast today, and it referenced someone who died in prison for ‘his truth’. It made me think about how many people would be willing to die for anything today. We want and believe in a lot of things, but I fear we’re not necessarily ready to do any work to realise or manifest that want or belief.
Lent is not just about stopping the bad, it’s about putting good in its place. It’s not about just not eating, or eating differently. It needs a spiritual program. It needs a workout regimen practiced with zeal.
Attached is a Lent Program that I put together for some people who come for confession or spiritual guidance. It’s intense, and may seem overwhelming. With guidance from your own personal trainer (father of confession/spiritual father), maybe there are elements you can take from it to practice throughout the season. There may be parts to do at some times and not others, or they can be increased gradually throughout. Don’t be overwhelmed!
To the best of your ability, try this Lent to: change up your sensory inputs, devote yourself to discipline, commune as often as you can, confess at least once, choose some way to be charitable (financially or time-wise or both), find people and things to serve, increase your prayer and reading, and see what changes you might see on the other end of these 55 days.
May God grant us a profitable season. I’m stoked already.
Attached is a proposed plan – it’s the same as last year’s, as the circumstances seem to be similar! You’ll find the document after the citation below.
 Ernest A. Wallis Budge, ed., The Paradise or Garden of the Holy Fathers, vol. 2 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1907), 19.