It’s the season of Lent and there is always a question of what to do with oneself during the season. Often people try to do without something which they find comforting or a favorite activity. I believe all this giving up stuff began many centuries ago as a form of fasting.

According to our Hebrew Scriptures, the usual fast began at sundown and extended to sundown the second day. When the partial fast was used, a person would abstain from food only during the daylight hours. Some generations later, many Western Christians observe a forty-day partial fast between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to commemorate the forty years the Israelites wandered in the Sinai Desert and the fast observed by Christ during his forty-day temptation in the desert.

Typically, a modern fast begins at dawn and ends at sunset and/or involves a “selective” fast of particular foods or liquids rather than a total fast. Many faithful folks do not eat meat or consume dairy products, a type of fast that is also centuries old. People would eat all the fat, meat and dairy in their household on Sunday and then fast the rest of the week. It was okay to “break” the fast on Sundays because the Church considered Sundays as feast days; every Sunday was celebrated for a Saint, hence the feast. But, if you’ve ever lived on a farm, you know that the cows or the goats need to be milked more than once a week. Eventually, the fast became a Friday practice only. So, people eat fish instead of meat on Friday as a symbolic gesture.

By the way, this is where we get our word breakfast, “breaking” the overnight fast. Some people give up their favorite foods or soft drinks or maybe even coconut. Yeah, coconut, I gave that up once or twice over the years! I recall one of our elders giving up being mean to her husband one year as well. I understand it was a difficult 40 days!

Then of course, there are those who add a spiritual discipline to their daily routines rather than deprive themselves of chocolate, etc. In addition to fasting the spiritual disciplines include Bible study, prayer/meditation, devotional reading, intercessory prayer, pilgrimage and doing little acts of kindness. I hope your choice of practice, your our own period of discipline, aids you on this Lenten journey. Soon, we will be observing Holy Week as we continue toward Easter morning.