A generous Lent
“…God loves a cheerful giver” (NRSV, 2 Corinthians 9:7)
Lent is popularly looked on as a grim and dreary season which one grins and bears for six weeks. But nothing could be farther removed from the true spirit of Lent, and the spirit in which one’s Lenten rule is kept is as important as the rule itself.
Let us consider first the wrong approach to Lent. According to this it is a disagreeable season which might well be quietly dropped. But as there is no prospect of that happening, one can’t ignore Lent altogether without feeling a defaulter or even a fraud. So the best thing to do is to compromise by observing it with the minimum of discomfort. Therefore the main part, or indeed the whole of the Lenten rule will be the giving up of some pleasure.
According to this way of thinking, Lent is a cheerless affair, relieved by the fact that it only lasts six weeks.
The principal result, and therefore the principal merit of such a Lenten rule, if it is kept without being broken, is to heighten one’s opinion of oneself and of one’s will power; and at Easter one will be able to enjoy with all the greater relish the pleasures which have been foregone.
Needless to say, that is the wrong way to keep Lent – wrong both because it is so negative and limited, being confined to just one aspect of self-denial, and also because Lent itself is regarded as something to be suffered with resignation rather than as an opportunity of cheerfully offering something to God.