February 13, 2013

On Filling the Void During Lent

A friend who is a priest generously offered the following food for thought for Lent:

In his famous, "Rule of Monks," St. Benedict proscribes for his monks the acts of prayer, spiritual reading, and abstinence for their Lenten observance:

"In these days, therefore, let us add something beyond the wonted measure of our service, such as private prayers and abstinence from food and drink."

It is worth considering what we will "give up" for Lent and in what  other ways we will spiritually observe this holy season.  Since Benedict's Rule has remained the standard for about 1,500 years, maybe his wisdom should be our guide.  Forms of fasting and bodily sacrifice are among the most ancient forms of penance.  Also, in addition to making a sacrifice to God for past sins and negligence, we learn greater self-control so that we may do better in the future.

Spiritually, we are called to imitate Jesus's forty days in the desert, where He was alone in constant prayer to the Father.  Some extra daily time with God in prayer should certainly be a part of our Lenten observance, since one of the points of sacrificing something from our lives is to have grace fill the void.

Finally, you may want to consider some spiritual classic to use for meditations during Lent.  Ofttimes, as with New Year's resolutions, Lenten sacrifices don't last, because we have nothing to fill the void for the thing we have tried to give up.  A good spiritual book can be like a faithful companion to which you can turn when you are tempted to squander your time.

In the end, the Rule of St. Benedict guided his monks to enter into Lent with their bodies, souls, and minds.  If it has worked for fifteen centuries, there might be something to it!

Father Joseph

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