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Celebrating the Sunday Feast in Lent
March 29, 2014
One part of our Lent experience that we have been emphasising this year is seeing Sunday as a celebration day where we have for example celebrated communion, So here's a little more information on why we are doing that.
First up, its helpful to know that Lent has been observed in many different ways over many hundreds of years. Across denominations and over time periods there have been wide ranging variations in Lent practices, the number of days and the "rules" associated with breaking the fasting elements of Lent. Even now there is significant divergence between church traditions who have a more liturgical emphasis eg Catholics & Eastern Orthodox. What HAS been around for a long time is some kind of fasting practice in the period leading up to Easter.
The official Lent period is where all the confusion starts! Because if you count the days from Ash Wednesday you end up with 46 days - that's because there are 6 Sundays that are commonly treated differently in Lent. Historically, the period in Rome and the West prevailed of fasting for six days a week over the course of six weeks, and Ash Wednesday was instituted to bring the number of fast days before Easter to 40. These Christians literally fasted from food every day until their evening meal (later relaxed to 3pm).
Sundays have long been held to be feast days in the church. So when it comes to the fasting element of Lent, it wasn't so much that you had a choice about fasting it was actually forbidden! Every Sunday is a little Easter. Every Sunday should feel like a celebration.
Adding to the confusion has been the relaxing of fasting as a practice over Lent and the emphasising of acts of discipline - our picking up and putting down. So for many people the fasting and discipline elements of Lent have become merged into one commitment.
So what should we do on Sundays?
We should celebrate the Resurrection of Christ - we do this in many ways but one recurring way we all do this is through Holy Communion. For many people communion actually takes on a freshness through Lent because we are in a period of more intentional focus on God and our sin
We shouldn't go out of our way to break our Lent commitment or feel obligated to break it! It is perfectly OK to want to keep that part of your Lent commitment - but I would say this, if keeping that commitment is about keeping the rules, then maybe the best thing you could do is break it! You see if breaking it somehow wrecks your sense of devotion and commitment you may be placing more emphasis on what YOU are doing and less on what God is doing through that practice
On the other hand, we should feel free if faced with a healthy choice to exercise that choice knowing that this is not a giving up contest and we are free to choose
Of course, much of this depends on your Lent commitment! Giving up swearing for Lent is something you should probably maintain on Sundays...giving up chocolate maybe not...overeating - well gluttony is a sin so it's generally a good idea to avoid it if you can!