Part of one’s preparation during the Lenten observance is accomplished through self-denial in some way, be it through abstaining from certain favorite foods, caffeinated beverages, even activities that are enjoyed as part of one’s normal lifestyle. Many who may have observed Lent in a former time of their life recall giving up meat on Fridays and substituting with fish in its place (by direction, not choice!). Abstinence of something is performed in an attempt to identify with the self-denial that Jesus exercised during His wilderness testing.
Many of the Christian denominations that resulted from the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s did not continue the practice of Lent. The objection to continuing Lent was rooted in the belief that the observance had become ritualistic rather than heart-felt. The Reformers believed Lent was more about the Roman Catholic Church’s control over its people than about preparing to remember Christ’s victorious sacrifice. Martin Luther cautioned against Lent’s practice of abstaining from foods to gain favor with God. John Calvin labeled Lent as a “superstitious observance”. Both were former priests of the Roman Catholic Church.
So, considering that there are worthy concepts of self-denial, and identification with Jesus bound up in the celebration of Lent, how can we prepare our hearts for the Resurrection celebration without becoming routine, ritualistic, and superstition?
I believe the best answer to that question is found in not being seasonal with respect to observing the death and resurrection of our Savior. When we slip into a seasonal observance of Christ’s reason for coming, we risk minimizing the importance of His death and resurrection for the 325 remaining days in the “church calendar”. The Apostle Paul had a year-round application of Christ’s death and victory over death in his behalf, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).