Today is Ash Wednesday. B and I have decided to try and take this more seriously this year. And by more seriously I mean actually observe it. Today we are abstaining from meat and "fasting" though the definition of fast isn't really no food, just less food and no snacks. So I researched why we fast and found this:
Fasting: Fasting is one of the most ancient practices linked to Lent. In fact, the paschal fast predates Lent as we know it. The early Church fasted intensely for two days before the celebration of the Easter Vigil. This fast was later extended and became a 40-day period of fasting leading up to Easter. Vatican II called us to renew the observance of the ancient paschal fast: "...let the paschal fast be kept sacred. Let it be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, so that the joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection may be attained with uplifted and clear mind" (Liturgy, # 110).
Fasting is more than a means of developing self-control. It is often an aid to prayer, as the pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God. The first reading on the Friday after Ash Wednesday points out another important dimension of fasting. The prophet Isaiah insists that fasting without changing our behavior is not pleasing to God. "This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own" (Is 58:6-7).
Fasting should be linked to our concern for those who are forced to fast by their poverty, those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political structures, those who are in need for any reason. Thus fasting, too, is linked to living out our baptismal promises. By our Baptism, we are charged with the responsibility of showing Christ's love to the world, especially to those in need. Fasting can help us realize the suffering that so many people in our world experience every day, and it should lead us to greater efforts to alleviate that suffering.
Abstaining from meat traditionally also linked us to the poor, who could seldom afford meat for their meals. It can do the same today if we remember the purpose of abstinence and embrace it as a spiritual link to those whose diets are sparse and simple. That should be the goal we set for ourselves—a sparse and simple meal. Avoiding meat while eating lobster misses the whole point!
So we are trying this today and for the next 40 days. We are also trying to better ourselves in other ways, perhaps more material ways. We are not going to spend money during lent. We will buy groceries, gasoline and medicine. B and I need to learn delayed gratification and to really consider what are needs and what are wants. Lent seemed like an appropriate time to do this. We are not going to eat out, again this is a want not a need. If we are invited out we may go. Chinese takeout, which is our greatest weakness it completely off limits for the next 40 days. Perhaps reflecting on those who can not have such luxuries will allow us to be happy with what we have.
I also considered giving something up for lent, the usual suspects are chocolate, TV. Instead I am going to do something. I am not going to tell B about it and see if he guesses what it is. I plan to do housework without complaint and with a giving heart. I love my family and doing housework blesses them. I will not keep score between B and I and who has done more. We shall see if 40 days of work without complaint and procrastination can help.