Practices for Lent
Incorporating ancient disciplines into our lives today
Reflections by Paula Huston
As contemporary urban people, we’re not used to being alone. We’ve often learned to depend on the opinions of others for our sense of self, and on our social roles for our sense of meaning. Solitude can thus feel threatening. Yet Christianity teaches that deliberate times of withdrawal are necessary for true self-knowledge and for communion with God.
Silence accompanies aloneness, and is one of its great benefits. Yet one can practice silence even in the midst of other people. St. Benedict believed that unless we learn to control our tongues, community is doomed. Here are some common temptations that surround unbridled talking and ways that we can begin to temper our speech.
The season of Lent is associated
with abstinence from certain kinds of food. When we deliberately skip a
meal, we quickly become aware of how invested we are in eating, how many times a
day we think about food, and how much of our energy goes toward meeting the
demands of the stomach. Fasting can thus help free us from
a certain kind of bondage.
Chastity, which is an aspect
of celibacy that can be practiced by anyone including married people, promotes
an attitude of thanksgiving and reverence toward all that God has created,
including our flesh. To practice chastity means to look upon other people’s
bodies—and our own—with the respect that is due them.
As we approach Easter and the end of Lent, we start thinking once again about
ordinary time, which for most of us means our daily round of work. Here, we look at a practice the Buddhists call “right livelihood,” or
developing the proper attitude toward what we do for a living.
Spiritual confidence is
trust in God. When we let go of self-reliance and put our
faith in divine lovingkindness, we are freed up from anxiety and fear
about the future. Now is a particularly good time to think about
spiritual confidence, especially when we read about how quickly the traumatized
disciples scattered after the crucifixion.