As you get older you quickly realize that you will never have all the answers and there is always much to learn about EVERYTHING. Was I right with my 40 Days blog? Yes and No! It really depends on who you are, the decade you were raised in and who you were raised by as to how you view Lent. I also did a bit of research on the subject as well as a lot of thinking about it and here is what I came up with....and mind you, my findings basically pertain to Catholics as that is the point where the knowledge I have springs from.
In the world of Catholics and Lent, there seems to be three schools of thought. The first is very old school and one that my family growing up leaned towards. Lent is a very solemn time that prepares your soul for Good Friday (the death of our Lord) and Easter Sunday (His Resurrection). The 40 days prior is what reminds us of the sacrifice made for our sins as well and it serves as a pre-mourning period for what we know transpired on Good Friday. Because of all of this, old school Catholics use this time to sacrifice. Many choose this time to deny themselves things they like or enjoy, to pray and attend Mass more and to even dress more modestly or even in black as a reminder to themselves and the world, of this solemn time of year. On reading up on Lenten acts I saw where some people gave up conveniences such as using dishwashers, microwaves and even driving their cars during Lent. One woman refused to use her home washer and dryer during this time, instead making herself take all of her clothes to the laundry mat, a chore she despised. Some people put their sacrifice where their mouth is and give up chocolate, sugar, bread, all meat, soda or whatever else their palette likes to indulge in. And finally others give up habits such as social media, smoking, drinking, watching TV, reading, video games and one lady I read about even gave up curling her hair and putting on make-up during Lent. All of these sacrifices are personal though and not all sacrifice is equal to all persons. It is good to keep in mind that sacrifice is different things to different individuals.
Yes...to the old school Catholics, Lent is about sacrifice. It is about giving things up as a reminder of the extreme sacrifice made for all of us. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. However, there is now a more modern approach to Lent which many Catholics (often of a younger generation) seem to abide with. The modern mind set seems to actually be more service oriented with as one person pointed out "a more zen approach," to Lent. In other words instead of sacrifice, it is believed that Lent should be a time of giving back, helping others and doing things (for the better) that we might not be so eager to do the rest of the year. Another person stated that in the modern world, "sacrifice was in the eye of the beholder." As I stated above.....sacrifice means different things to different people and because of this, some feel that service is a better way to go. However, the flip side to that with more traditional or old school beliefs on this subject is that we as a society don't want to deprive ourselves of anything, therefore "we eat our chocolate, but also buy chocolate for those who don't have chocolate." It is win/win and everyone gets off easy....right?! The question is though, is this modern approach pulling our attention away from the big picture.....SACRIFICE? God sacrificed His only son and Jesus sacrificed His life for us and the best we can do during Lent is to give some clothes to Goodwill? Hmmmmm
Finally there is the third school of thought on all of this and it is the one that I tend to lean towards, perhaps because I have one foot in both worlds being fairly old school and understanding that new generations are going to have new ideas. I say pulling a little from both schools of thought is good. Sacrifice is necessary. It keeps our souls in good working order and keeps us centered and focused on why we honor Lent. Granted, sacrifice means different things to different people but we all have something that means a great deal to us and giving it up shows that we acknowledge Our Lords sacrifice and the importance of it for our souls. I also think extra prayers and Masses are always a good thing and doing it for 40 days may just make it become a habit the rest of the year. Finally.....service. Service is an important act year round whether it is giving of your time, your prayers or your money...... but offering it up during Lent makes it especially good for us mentally, spiritually and physically, not to mention how it helps those in need of these services.
So do I have a preference between sacrifice and service? Yes and No! I think during Lent both should be done. There is a place for both but one should not be done to replace the other. In other words, sacrifice and service should both be key words and acts in our lives during Lent and a reminder that in our goal to be more Christ-like....He was both a man of sacrifice and service! Okay....now your thoughts. Sacrifice? Service? Or BOTH?