Lenten tradition offers opportunity for bettering self

By Courtney Downing | The Duquesne Duke
By Courtney Downing | The Duquesne Duke

Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor

The black ash crosses seen across campus more than a week ago marked the beginning of the Lenten season. The next 40 days, though, will distinguish the devoted followers from the casual churchgoers.

Christians around the world celebrate the 40 days leading up to Easter by remembering the sacrifice Jesus Christ gave by dying on the cross to save us. In turn, Christians bear their own Lenten crosses by giving up something they enjoy, fasting on Holy Days and Fridays, fasting all together throughout the season, attending Church or any combination of them all. The season’s deeply religious meaning reminds Christians of all of the sacrifices Jesus made for us.

Lent can be traced back to the fifth century although it has changed since then. When it first began people fasted completely for 40 days. Over the years the fast has gone from not eating to giving up things that are overindulgent or making changes to better ourselves. The tradition of not eating meat dates back the time of Socrates in the fifth century.

Lent provides the perfect opportunity to become more vigilant in the practices of your faith, no matter what your faith may be. One of the greater attributes of Lent is a call to prayer. Catholics pray the Stations of the Cross and hold vigil on Holy Days during this time. Lent offers an opportunity for anyone to build on their spiritual foundation, no matter their beliefs.

We suffer as a reminder of how Jesus suffered for us when he was being prepared for his death. He spent 40 days fasting in the desert, which is why modern day Lent is so close to 40 days. During those 40 days, he was tempted constantly by the devil who offered him food, water, entire kingdoms and more. All would have been his if Jesus agreed to worship the devil. Throughout that time, Jesus remained devoted to God just as Christians attempt to do so during the Lenten season. Lent serves as a time of self-cleansing in preparation for one of the most important parts of the year for Christians, Easter.

Non-Christians may not believe in the religious traditions and may regard the entire season as another meaningless time of year. There’s more to it than just the religious traditions.

Regardless of how deeply held your religious beliefs are, Lent can be a great time to rededicate yourself to improvement. Making the effort to refrain from poor food choices like candy, alcohol, snacks or fatty foods for Lent could lead to long-term, healthier life choices. Christians give up red meat on Fridays and Holy Days and opt for seafood and fish instead, which is a healthy, less fatty replacement for red meat anyway. To accommodate these choices, many restaurants offer non-meat specials during Lent. Non-Christians can also take advantage of these options to begin eating better and being healthier.

Lent is the perfect opportunity to  repurpose your goals in bettering yourself in more aspects than just health. As many people make New Year’s resolutions ranging from exercising, eating better, leading a happier life or just being a better person, Lent can offer another chance to make that positive change.

Making a sacrifice or lifestyle change at any time can be difficult. Christians who attempt a change during the Lenten season have the support of an entire faith community behind them. Having the support of many people who are making similar changes of their own offers a unique type of encouragement and strength. Traditions fade unless they are effective and those who practice find them significant. Lent and its traditions have survived and adapted throughout history and don’t appear to be making an exit any time soon.

For Christians, Easter is one of the greatest celebrations of the year because we are reminded of how much God loves us and how he was willing to sacrifice his only son for us. Beyond that, it also shows us how much Jesus loved us, so much so that he was willing to die for us. Not believing in Christianity doesn’t mean this time of year has to be meaningless.

Anyone can use this time of year as an opportunity to accomplish desired goals or making some positive changes, for the next 40 days or longer. For those who do follow the Christian faith, this is a glorious time of year and as long as you embrace the true meaning of sacrifice and resistance of temptation, a Lenten commitment will leave you feeling much better about your faith and yourself when Easter rolls around.

Saúl Berríos-Thomas is a junior political science major and can be reached at berriosthomass@duq.edu.