Nowadays Lent is seen as a time when we may each give up or reduce something in our life that is important or enjoyable, often a luxury or indulgence such as alcohol or chocolate. It can be an opportunity to break a habit like smoking, or be in order to eat more healthily. It can be a challenge regarding our self-discipline, even a bet with a friend. Almost invariably, however, it involves something material, pleasurable or consumable.
How things have changed. Many hundreds of years ago, Lent was seen as a period for inner reflection and contemplation. People, in their own way, as best they could, left the world for forty six days to focus on their spiritual well being, reinforcing their connection with God. Sometimes it involved going into retreat physically, sometimes it was giving up the ways of the world - dancing, for example - in order to live more quietly and thoughtfully.
One commentator today, on the first day of Lent, suggested giving up noise for Lent, perhaps reducing our intake of radio, television, the internet, in order to bring more silence into our lives, for reflection and inner peace. This ties in well with what I wrote about yesterday, suggesting listening to the changing energy around us and hearing the angels sing.
We miss so much when our minds and ears are distracted constantly by external noise or internal mental traffic. If you are wondering what to give up for Lent, if that is what you choose to do, it may be helpful to remember that the "sacrifice" does not have to be a material one, painful or deprivatory, but can be enriching and joyful, a template for life and beyond.