why do we give up food for lent

YouБre out with your friends on a Friday night and suddenly you notice that one of them has switched from his favorite microbrew toБ lemonade? Is it time for Lent already? Giving up something for Lent sometimes evokes head-scratching in non-Catholics, but what might seem like just another Catholic eccentricity can actually be a practice with deep spiritual significance. Lent, the period of 40 days that precedes the celebration of Easter, has its origin in the early days of the Church. Converts seeking to become Christian, who at that time were mostly adults, spent several years in study and preparation. Under the threat of Roman persecution, becoming a Christian was serious business, so their process of preparation was intensive!


Then they went through a final period of Бpurification and enlightenmentБ for the 40 days before their baptism at Easter. The rest of the Church began to observe the season of Lent in solidarity with these newest Christians. It became an opportunity for all Christians to recall and renew the commitment of their baptism. Today we know Lent as a season of conversion: we acknowledge the ways we have turned away from God in our lives and we focus on turning our hearts and minds back toward God. Hence the three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These observances help us turn away from whatever has distracted or derailed us and to turn back to God. Giving up something for Lent is ultimately a form of fasting.


We can deprive ourselves of some small pleasure or indulgence and offer that sacrifice up to God. Or we might Бgive upБ a bad habit such as smoking as a way of positively turning our life back towards what God wants for us. So maybe your mom was on to something when she had you give up Oreos or your favorite TV show as a child. An experience of want, however temporary, can help us to appreciate the true abundance in our lives. And a small positive change can have a big impact that lasts beyond the 40 days of Lent. Take the time now to think about what you might give up this year. Is it something you enjoy that you want to sacrifice for a while, like your daily latte? Or is it a bad habit you want to conquer, like running in late to meetings with co-workers?


Or perhaps you want to turn your cell phone off for a few hours each day and not let it distract you from the loved ones you are with in real time? Find something that works for you, and whatever it is, may it help you to turn towards God in this holy season of Lent.
Ask nearly anyone who grew up Catholic what theyвre doing for Lent, and theyвll probably tell you what theyвre вgiving up. The notion of giving up some pleasure for the 40 days of Lent is very much in keeping with the penitential character of the season. Of course, the primary pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. All of these are intended to turn our hearts back to God, to purify us, and prepare us for the celebration of Christвs resurrection at Easter.


One of the things that the whole Church gives up for Lent is the acclamation Alleluia before the proclamation of the Gospel. When it comes to giving things up for Lent, people often get into trouble by taking on too much, or by working from the wrong motivation. To take on too much is to set oneself up for failure. Several years ago, I decided to give up both meat and chocolate for Lent. Instead of turning my heart back to God, this only served to make me irritable, as every bacon cheeseburger or peanut butter cup I encountered began to take on demonic proportions. The following year, I decided that perhaps the spiritual discipline of Lent was what I needed to help me lose 10 pounds by Easter.


This was obviously the wrong motivation, because it made my Lenten practice all about me. This discipline is supposed to get us out of ourselves, and back to God. Needless to say, by Easter I still had those 10 pounds, and felt like a failure besides. The gift of humility comes from all sorts of interesting places. So this year, Iвm trying a different tack. For Lent, Iвm giving upв. complaining. Iвm also trying to give up a grudge that Iвve been quietly carrying around since Christmas. Iвve also given up elevators, as an occasional reminder of my tendency to take the easy path. Time will tell, but I think I might make it all the way to Easter this year.