Lent… what to make of it

Since I personally don’t celebrate Lent as any particular holiday during the year, I tend to not give it much thought when it does arise. This morning I did run across a short article over at Resurgance that challenged me to actually think about it. One of the posts was Why Bother With Lent? (PDF) which had a couple key points that I thought were interesting:

“To be sure, the Bible doesn‟t require us to recognize seasons like Lent or even Advent. In Romans 14:5, Paul writes that the celebration of holy days is a matter of Christian liberty. Paul continues, ‘The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord’ (Rom. 14:6). Therefore, any recognition of Lent must be done in a way that honors God.”

“The Lenten season starts on Ash Wednesday. For many recognizing Lent, that day marks the first day of a forty-day fast from something. The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras
(French for “Fat Tuesday”). Many people have at least a day of feasting before the season of fasting. Perhaps no city in America celebrates Mardi Gras better than New Orleans. Many revelers gather on Bourbon Street on Tuesday evening. The party goes long into the night, ending at Midnight on Tuesday night. Since Lent starts at 12:01 a.m. on Ash Wednesday, the New Orleans Police Department gather at Midnight on Mardi Gras, form a wall of officers and horses, and use that wall to clear Bourbon Street. In the minds of many, that‟s a great picture of Lent: Party up to the last minute before the Lenten season starts. Get what you can before you have to give it up. Feast before you have to fast. It‟s the reason the celebrations associated with Mardi Gras are often referred to as Carnival—the Latin for “goodbye meat.” In the minds of others, that‟s also what makes the Lenten season at best a disappointment and at worst a farce. It seems almost hypocritical to celebrate the Seven Deadly Sins before suppressing them.”

Even with its brilliantly coloful parades and costumes,  after the party is over, the city is left in a condition worse than when it started. Trash and litter fill the streets. Slowly be surely an ultimate “resotration” takes place. The police force clears the streets of wandering partygoers to end the partying. And the city crews get to work attempting to renew the streets to some level of cleanliness. Surprisingly, even in times of outright wantonness there are still elements of decency and order.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans serves as good illustration of how the height of man-made revelings ends in utter chaos and emptyness. God allows men to have the freedom to choose such activities which might seem good for a “season.” But at the end of the day the parties will come to an end. An ultimate restoration will take place. God will clear the streets and set everything back to His perfect order. Even though I don’t specifically fast for Lent, even the feasting beforehand is a great reminder of God’s ultimate plan to restore His world back to himself.

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