Monday, 20 March 2017

Should We Give Up Chocolate For Lent?

It's mid-March already.
                                              The sun is waking us up earlier each day.

Outside we see the almond and peach trees in vibrant pink and white blossom.
Inside our shops we see brightly coloured Easter eggs appearing.
Some of wrestle with the annual question: Should we have given up chocolate for Lent?

For chocolate lovers such as myself this is indeed a big sacrifice. But the real question should surely be: Will that sacrifice make us a better person by Easter? If the answer is no or only maybe, then it might be time to ask another question: What really is the real purpose of Lent?

Lent- or Lenten- takes its name from the old English word for 'Lengthen'. It refers to the early spring when the days lengthen as the hours of daylight increase. In our Catholic past the year was marked by religious festivals; of which Christmas- Christ's birth- and Easter Christ's death and resurrection- are the most important. The devout prepared carefully for each by praying, fasting and giving alms to the poor.At Lent they donned sackcloth and ashes in attempt to humble themselves before God.

What is the significance of the Forty Day period of Lent? This is to replicate the forty days Christ spent in the desert alone fasting and praying, before being tempted by Satan.
Finally Satan asks Christ to prove he is the son of God by displaying his  divine power. As we have it in Luke Chapter 4 verse 9:
'Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem and set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him:  'If you are God's Son, throw yourself down from here, for the scripture says 'God will order his angels to take good care of you.........But Jesus answered; 'The scripture says 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test..... Then Jesus returned to Galilee and the power of the Holy Spirit was with him.  The news of him spread throughout all that territory.He taught in the synagogues and was praised by everyone.'

Ok then. Back to the question: Should we give up chocolate for Lent? Having considered the purpose and origins of the religious rite, it no longer seems to be the right question to ask. If we believe that there is any point in marking this period at all, then surely it should be by in a spiritual or contemplative manner; one in which we devote time to prayer, self-examination and charitable works as of old? Perhaps by committing ourselves to a gradual spiritual reawakening, reflecting the lengthening of the spring days, then lasting benefits will ensue. Maybe then we can focus more intently on the needs of those around us, perhaps starting some new work or project to help them, setting in motion a cycle  of good, that will continue long after Lent.

This is exactly what the blanket company, Sackcloth and Ashes have done.The founder was moved by his mother's short period on the streets to  instigate a policy whereby for every blanket sold another is donated to a homeless charity. A huge sacrifice in terms of  gross company profit, but a huge net  profit in terms of spiritual gain. And not one that can be gained from giving up the finest chocolate money can buy. Happy Easter!