Lent is the season of the church that starts on Ash Wednesday (today) and ends on Easter. It’s dark and somber. Solemn and quiet. Chock full of scripture, tradition and spiritual discipline.
Sometimes, especially toward the end, Lent is sad.
But I love it.
In an email I got around Ash Wednesday last year, a friend of mine who’s a Franciscan friar explained the concept of kenosis. It’s the “process of emptying,” he wrote, and it’s “very common in our Christian spirituality.” Especially during Lent.
Most practicing Roman Catholic Christians fast until dinner on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We don’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday, or on any Friday in Lent. We usually make a 40-day sacrifice. Sometimes, it’s a sacrifice of time, like volunteering at a food bank, going to mass daily or waking up earlier every day to read the Bible. Other times, it’s actually giving up stuff. In past Lents, I’ve given up chocolate. Bread. CDs. Facebook. Once, I heard about a guy who gave up his bed (so he slept on the floor).
But what people give up is only part of the point. The rest of the point is what happens to you when you deny yourself something. Fewer things means fewer distractions. Time is finite. Attention is finite. The fewer our obligations, the more time and attention we can give to what’s left. The more time and attention we give, the higher the quality of it. When we give up stuff, it puts a new perspective on the difference between the words want and need. When we sacrifice, it empties us.
That, the Franciscan friar wrote, is the point.
“In order to let God fill our life, we need to empty it first.”
Here’s to an empty Lent.