Observing Lent, celebrating Easter

Observing Lent, celebrating Easter

Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. While Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross, Lent recalls the events leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. This period is marked by prayer, self-denial, simplicity, alms giving and fasting. Devout Christians observe a rigid schedule of fasting on certain days, and abstain from meat, alcohol and sweets.

They also focus on charitable deeds, such as giving alms, food, clothes, etc to the poor.
Many Christians throughout the world observe Lent and look forward to this annual time of sacrifice and simplicity. Most of them make sacrifices for Lent by giving up something that they like the most, such as sweets, cigarettes, alcohol, candy, etc. For some people, Lent is a period of going on a diet, while some others look at it as an opportunity to detoxify by giving up rich food, alcohol, chocolates, dairy products, etc. Some others do extra things like working more or praying more often. Even giving up the pleasures of shopping or not wearing a favourite dress during Lent are a means to controlling material excesses.

Some people try hard to give up gossiping, back biting or losing their temper for Lent.
Pope St. Leo, for example, emphasised that fasting from wrath is also required. In this way, Lent represents a spiritual training time to overcome evil. One learns to control a particular part of his/ her life, which leads to greater self-discipline even when Lent is over. Lent is therefore about spiritual results, not material ones. The best way to remove vice is to cultivate virtue, and charity is the biggest virtue. Lent is the traditional time of helping the poor and doing acts of charity and mercy. Giving alms can be done in more ways than just giving out money to beggars on the street. Charity also means helping family, friends, and neighbours out of tight situations or being more generous to domestic help and doing voluntary service at old age homes.

Sabrina Paynter, a teacher in a special school in Bangalore, not only abstains from eating non-vegetarian food during Lent, but also tries to abstain from getting upset or angry during this period, and makes the extra effort of being more patient and understanding during Lent. She and her husband Don and their little son Brandon make it their duty to pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament every day on their way to school. She considers her work with the children at the special school as a special privilege and a gift.

Jude and Kusum Pinto, who both work for a German company, place more emphasis on spiritual aspects like attending Mass and the Stations of the Cross, spending time before the Blessed Sacrament, personal prayers and spiritual reading and most especially making a good confession as part of their Easter obligations. They also try to be more charitable in their thoughts, words and deeds during this season, giving as much charity as possible to the poor and helping the less fortunate. Both of them voluntarily abstain from meat, and they also try to avoid eating out at restaurants and going to movies and shows during this period. “We are basically non-vegetarians and giving up meat for the whole of Lent is indeed a sacrifice” says Jude.

Michelle Mascarenhas, Manager, Corporate Solutions, was more prosaic about the Lenten sacrifice, giving up chocolates, desserts and Coca-Cola. She and her husband Bret, who works for a US-based animation company, give up non-vegetarian food during Lent which includes even eggs. Bret who loves his meat makes a huge sacrifice during Lent by giving up not only non-vegetarian food but also his cigarettes! Michelle also says the financial gains from this sacrifice are always given to the less privileged.

Arun Nagendran, an analyst at Yahoo, also abstains from meat and other non-vegetarian food the whole of Lent. “I try to fast on as many days as possible too,” he says. He also tries to spend extra time in prayer during this season. Arun and his cousin Roydon Gonsalves, who is part of the e-learning team at Accenture, avoid attending parties, and also try to listen to more spiritual music during Lent.  

Conway Alweyn, a management representative, says Lent is a time of fasting / of denial / of giving up something.

“Denying oneself certain foods or other indulgences is helpful to one’s health. No one who disciplines himself unswervingly in some manner during a forty-day period will fail to reap some kind of blessing.”  

Anjali who works in the housekeeping department in one of the shopping malls in Koramangala, Bangalore says that she gives up eating watermelon for Lent. Watermelon being a favourite summer fruit, she normally buys a slice of this tempting fruit every day on her way back from work. During Lent she still buys her usual slice of watermelon, but makes a sacrifice of not eating it and instead gives it to her neighbour’s children.
Watching them enjoying the slice of watermelon gives her joy, she says.  

Reema Pereira, who works for a UK- based software company, says her main indulgences in life are her fortnightly visits to the beauty parlour and gorging on pizzas and burgers during the week. During Lent, Reema uses the money she’s saved to buy sweets and savouries, which she distributes to the children whom she sees begging at the traffic signals.

 According to her, she would find herself thinking of and longing for a bottle of Coke or a slice of pizza, a dozen times a day, but each time she gets these cravings, she brings her thoughts back to the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  

The whole point of Lent is therefore to make a small sacrifice as a remembrance of the great sacrifice that Jesus made for mankind. So the more ordinary the little indulgences one gives up, the more sacrifices one makes.

The general idea is that one should give up something that is “within reason” and not something that is outstandingly impossible to do. This whole season is therefore about sacrifice and how one can become a better person. 

Melting moments

Home-made hot cross buns

Ingredients:  800 grams flour; 20 grams active dry yeast; 200 grams sugar; 1 litre milk; ½ teaspoon  salt; 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder; ½ teaspoon nutmeg powder; 200 grams black currants; 20 grams candied peel; 200 grams butter; 3 eggs (beaten).
Method: Mix the yeast with 1 teaspoon sugar and ½ litre warm milk.  Strain and mix with 300 grams flour. Knead well, then cover with a towel and keep aside to rise for one hour. Mix the remaining flour with sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, currants, candied peel, remaining milk, butter and egg, with the dough that was mixed with the yeast. Knead well. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm place for 2 hours or till the dough has doubled in size. Take small portions of the dough and shape into round buns. Place on a greased and floured baking tray allowing sufficient room for the buns to spread. Using a knife make a ‘cross’ indent on the top of each bun. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle some sugar. Bake in a hot oven for about 30 minutes till golden brown. Remove and cool.

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