“What are you giving up for Lent?” I suspect we have all heard this question many times. We have probably even asked it of another or ourselves.
Unfortunately, it seems this one question often sets the tone for the season of Lent. The Ash Wednesday liturgy calls us to observe a Holy Lent, in part, through fasting and self-denial. So the question is very relevant. But the danger is that Lent then becomes very small and self-centered. Lent becomes about my fasting, my giving up, my self-denial.
We need to be mindful that our individual journeys always take place in the context of community. My growth and transformation, in order to be real, must affect and be connected to others. We are all interconnected.
We must also recognize that fasting and self-denial are not simply about doing without or being hungry. They are practices by which we create space so that we can recognize the fullness of God in our lives. They are practices that allow God to nourish, sustain, and provide for our every need. They are practices that help us to more fully give ourselves to God and one another.
Ultimately to fast means only one thing: to be hungry – to go to the limit of that human condition which depends entirely on food and, being hungry, to discover that this dependency is not the whole truth about [us], that hunger itself is first of all a spiritual state and that it is in its last reality hunger for God.
– Fr. Alexander Schmemann