For many, Tuesday’s was the last unfettered supper before Lent, when observant Christians sacrifice something they like between Ash Wednesday and the night before Easter. Some go so far as to fast for a single meals or for days.
The persistent joke, however, is, “I’m giving up Brussels sprouts and liver and onions for Lent.”
And hang gliding, of course.
Once the practice of Catholics and Anglicans, many Christian faiths are now doing something for Lent, albeit not in the traditional way of giving up a favorite food, alcohol or an activity.
“I tend to swing more in the direction of adding spiritual disciplines instead of away from [physical practices],’’ said Celia Eisenstrager who is slowly going through the process or ordination into the United Methodist Church clergy. The process is slow because, among other things, she is the mother of a 3-year-old.
She has reached out to new theological teachers taking on three new devotional studies as a “more contemplative practice.”
Done at a proper time, those studies are centering, she said.
“In times of rest not restlessness, as Americans, we have a hard time with it,’’ Eisenstrager said.
She already leads the older adult ministries at Brunswick United Methodist where she has seen a lot of strain and forced sacrifice in the past year during the pandemic.
“I’ve seen all my seniors have had to give up things in the past year,’’ she said. “It’s been a long and hard year.”
Still, those seniors adults including a 102-year-old man and a 105-year-old woman remain faithful, she said.
Joe Chapin is another who says he’s “adding something instead of taking away,’’ in his case some extra church services.
“You always get something,’’ from going to church, he said. “As Christians, the Bible says if we draw near to God, He’ll draw near to us. I believe in that.”
Chapin said there is nothing wrong with stepping outside denominations to learn about what other Christians are doing and adopt some practices albeit with a caveat from the Apostle Paul.
The Apostle Paul said many things are permissible but not all are beneficial, and Paul cautions against becoming a slave to some of those things.
Chapin said he has learned the hard way to listen to God in deciding on sacrifices. One year during Lent, God told him to end a relationship.
“I thought I’d give up chocolate. God said, ‘Do what you want with the chocolate, but his is what I want you to do,’ ’’ Chapin said.
So he continued in the relationship until it finally ended very badly with everyone unhappy, Chapin said.
If he had listened to God and made the sacrifice when he was told to, everyone would have been spared some pain, he said.
Chapin said as he finds new ways to draw closer to God, including making sacrifices, he remains happy.
“Even when you fast, don’t go around sad. Be as happy as you can,’’ because God doesn’t want us to be miserable when he calls upon us to sacrifice, he said.
“The Lord’s has brought me a long way. Most of my problems were self-inflicted,’’ he said.
Still, for many the accent is on sacrificing food. Catholics have traditionally eschewed red meat on Fridays through the Lenten season and eaten fish.
That practice is not lost on even the fast food industry. For example, Popeye’s announced it was debuting its Cajun flounder sandwich just in time for Lent. Industry reports show that the fish sandwich accounts for a huge portion of sales for the chain best known for its spicy chicken and other fast food versions of Louisiana Cajun dishes.
The classic definition of Lent says its purpose is to prepare the believer for Easter thru prayer, penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance, giving and self-denial.
As Christ Church rector Father Tom Purdy greeted drive-through diners at the church’s annual Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, he said that Lent is a time of repentance and self-improvement and not just self denial.
“You give up some things. You add some things,’’ Purdy said. “For some, it’s like a New Year’s resolution when you do something to improve yourself.”
Some see the day before Lent — Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras — as the day for a last blowout before the 40 days of self-denial. Purdy said the tradition of Shrove Tuesday pancakes is tied to preparation for Lent because it was a time to deplete the pantry of those things that were tempting, the lard, the flour, the sugar that go into self-indulgent meals.
It leads to Easter one of the largest feast days in the Christian church.
Purdy said it’s a “time to be forgiven of your sins.”