Have Faith: Lent comes early

The season begins on Valentine’s Day this year.

Palm Sunday is the week before Easter, this year on March 24. —Chris Berry

Christmas is the fun Christian liturgical season, with its Advent calendars (sometimes filled with little pieces of candy) and decorated trees. Lent, on the other hand, is a more solemn time when we recognize the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert when he was tempted by Satan. Not a lot of candy involved; in fact, a lot of people give up candy for the entire 40 days, sort of in solidarity with Jesus. Lent leads us to prepare for Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday, and this year it begins with Ash Wednesday falling on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

Folks also work on upgrading their prayer life during Lent, sometimes adding fasting and giving more money to causes dear to us. In the Catholic faith, it’s a good time to go to Confession and ask for God’s forgiveness. The church also has something called the Stations of the Cross, a tradition that usually takes place on Fridays, and sort of allows those gathered to walk with Jesus during his final hours. Also, you might find that the music at church is more sorrowful or serious during Lent. I’m not painting a very fun picture, am I? To top all of this off, Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Or I should say, a lot of them don’t. Lucky for us, though, we aren’t short of seafood options on this Island.

The thing about Lent that seems the most interesting to me is that we put all this energy into recognizing those 40 days in the desert, and aligning ourselves with Jesus’ suffering, and then after Easter we slip back into the status quo as if Lent never happened. We’re happy to pick up that chocolate bar we gave up, or that glass of wine after dinner we had stopped drinking during Lent. And that 15 minutes we sat in silence every morning, that gets taken up with checking websites for news, the latest Kardashian escapades, or what photos your friends shared on Facebook.

I can’t help but think I felt a little better when I had that quiet time during Lent. I’ve discovered I like the quiet. This is coming from someone who used to fall asleep watching true detective shows on the Discovery Channel, not exactly calming to view. Now I use a prayer app and fall asleep listening to people read scripture or other spiritual writing. And I find that I sleep much more soundly now that I’m not falling asleep to “20/20” shows about abducted people and their very sad relatives. Who knew?

This time around, I’m hoping whatever I decide to do for Lent, I manage to stick with some of it long after Easter comes around. Maybe I’ll just try to simplify a few things around the house, or at work. Look at my online orders and think before I hit the payment option. Do I really need to buy that new brand of jeans my sister loves when I have a closetful of things I don’t even wear anymore? Should I just make a big pot of soup instead of ordering takeout? My soup usually tastes better anyway.

To me, it all boils down to being mindful, but mindful most of the time. I need something to remind me to be more aware of what choices I’m making and why. Sometimes I do things just because they seem so much easier — hence the takeout pizza versus the homemade soup. I’m a firm believer in being gentle with ourselves, so I gravitate toward things that make life easier, not necessarily better.

It really isn’t all that difficult not to eat meat on Fridays; what’s difficult is me remembering not to eat meat on Fridays. It isn’t awful to pass up chocolate either. Once you get it out of your system, you don’t really miss it that much. Same for that post-dinner glass of wine. It’s the beginning that’s difficult, that first week getting used to the change in our routine or habits. For now, I can work on being mindful and thinking about what I might be able to do this Lent — visit friends who live alone, call my family more often, offer to run an errand for someone who is unable to, and maybe even look up some new soup recipes online, and use that saved money to treat a friend to flowers or something. There are a million little things we could do for each other, and they always make us feel better in the long run.

Here’s to preparing for Lent, because it comes early this year, and I want to be ready in mind, body, and spirit.


The M.V. Hebrew Center offers a Shabbat Shake-Up on Friday, Jan. 19, at 5 pm. There will be games, music, baking, and more. And a pizza dinner. Everyone is welcome.


The First Congregational Church in West Tisbury is looking for volunteers for its Community Meals program. Folks can help at the church with the pickup and delivery of the meals, and with preparation. Email wtcomsuppers@gmail.com to find out more.

If you have any news for Have Faith, please send it to connie@mvtimes.com