Preparing for Lent: Part I
As stated in my last post, one of the main purposes for fasting during Lent is to grow in the virtue of Temperance. If denying our flesh and self-control were not important to Christ, I don't think He would have mentioned it in scripture so often. If we are truly going to grow in this virtue, fasting two days out of the year just isn't going to cut it. When we deny our flesh and practice self-control, something else amazing happens: we bring our worldly passions under control.
If we are unbelievably passionate about something, let's say soccer, then we would probably give up other things to go play soccer. We would probably rather play soccer than eat, watch TV or be on Facebook. People who are intensely passionate about something are almost consumed by it.
So why aren't we this passionate about Christ? Why doesn't he consume our actions and thoughts? I for one believe it's because we have filled our hearts with so many other, worldly passions. The only way to put these passions in their place is to bring them under submission, by being able to deny ourselves of them. As the priest in the homily said, we should serve our passions, our passions shouldn't serve us.
Now who above all do you think wants to see us passionate about the world and not about Christ? It's that guy that no one wants to mention these days. Satan.
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8)
Someone to devour! I'm sure he is sitting there with a big old grin on his ugly devil face saying to me, "You haven't said your prayers today? Oh, it's ok. Stay on Facebook a little longer. See that cheesecake over there? Go ahead, idulge, have three more slices. You've had a long day." Here is what I am doing to try and make this Lent a time of growth in virtue and a time to bring my passions under control. I hope you will join me.
According to the priest in the homily, the devil tempts pious people to give up more than they can handle, knowing they will fail. This is me. I always start Lent trying to give up my left arm for 40 days. Pray about what you are going to give up. Try and pinpoint what worldly passions and desires are keeping you from growing closer to Christ.
2. Choose Something and Stick to It
I have been known to try and change what I've givin up 10 days in, because I thought of something else or the first chosen thing was "too hard". If your fast is getting hard, it probably means that you are detaching from whatever it is you have chosen to give up. Secondly, try and fast or abstain a little more than the current 8 days a year weenie standards. Abstaining from food, is a sure way to grow in the virtue of self-control.
3. Make Your Home a Reminder of the Season
One thing I am going to try this year is to place things in my home that remind me of the season at hand. We decorate for Advent, Christmas and Easter, why not throw Lent in there too!? I am going to place Bible versus around my house (particularly in my kitchen) that remind me of the goal of the season: namely to grow in temperance. I figure if I have a verse about self-control and gluttony on my pantry door, I'll be a lot less likely to indulge. I have also been thinking of placing a Lenten centerpiece on my dining room table. When I finish this idea, I will post pictures.
4. Pray Some More and Pick up Your Cross
If we try and do something by our own will, we will surely fail. Only prayer for sustainment and God's grace will help us. Pray that by denying your flesh, you will grow closer to the Lord, and that He will become your number one passion. Surely, we are His number one passion, as He came and died on the cross for us. He knows how hard it is to suffer. "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning". (Heb 4:15). And lastly, pick up that cross and embrace it. Christians don't run from the cross. We don't run from suffering, self-denial and fasting. We yearn for opportunities and ways to grow closer to Christ and walk with Him, carrying our own cross on the way.
May this upcoming Lenten season be one of tremendous growth and deepening prayer for you and your loved ones.
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