It’s Lent–time for the age-old debate: should we maintain our Lenten observances (giving up chocolate, iPods, Facebook, or what have you) from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday with no reprieve? Or can we celebrate the “mini-Easter” of Sunday each week and indulge in the things we’ve given up? I’ve had this conversation three times with different people in the past week, so thought it a good thing to post about.
On the one hand, it seems a little weak to insist on a weekly “out.” As a reaction against this weakness, I observed Lent for years by sticking doggedly to my allotted penance from one end of the season to the other, and only enjoyed the contraband after Easter.
Now for a little personal history: this is when I discovered something about my own character. I am very much an all or nothing person. So while I could go for the whole of Lent on the “nothing” side of things (sweets tend to be my sacrifice; I have a massive sweet tooth), when Easter rolled around, regardless of my best intentions, I always ended up flopping entirely back to “all.” And virtue (you know, moderation?) went entirely out the window on both sides of the coin. But hey, at least I felt really good about myself from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday…
In recent years (since my college days), I’ve begun the observance of Sundays in Lent as days of reprieve from my lenten penances. (Not, mind you, from the extra things I do for Lent, such as prayers, good works, etc., but just the mortifications.) This does not mean I gorge myself on chocolate/coffee/what have you on Sundays during Lent; it does mean that I enjoy a brownie after dinner, or a cup of coffee with a friend in the afternoon. And you know, the funniest part about accepting this gift of Sunday is how humbling it is. It reminds me 1) of how weak I am, (I mean, is giving up chocolate or coffee really all that hard?) and 2) of how good God is. It’s also a day filled with hope; throughout the difficulties of Lent, we have these regular reminders of the joy that awaits us.
This tends to be my view of things. (We could also claim Sunday on a technicality: there are 40 days in Lent, plus Sundays; so even observing Sunday you’re still sacrificing and fasting with Our Lord in the desert for 40 days.) But there is a whole other side to this debate–one I’d be interested to hear more of.