As all Catholics know well, the three traditional Lenten disciplines are fasting, almsgiving and prayer.
My parish put out a nice brochure relating to various Lenten practices and prayer opportunities during this season. In it was something I had not before realized – that the word “lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for springtime, “lencten.”
What happens during spring? We plant our seeds which, nourished by the sun, water and nutients in the soil, grow strong.
I like the connecting of Lent to spring because it helps us to understand the lenten practices as sources of nourishment. I think that is particularly helpful with fasting, for example, which can so easily been seen as a hardship, something we endure. If we can view the Lenten disciplines as sources of nourishment, I think we can approach them with more enthusiasm and appreciation.
I used the term Lenten “discipline” a few times here because the paragraph in my parish brochure which talked about the origins of the word Lent also contained the reminder that the term “discipline” comes from the same word as disciple. Thus, alhtough we tend to associate discipline with punishment, makign us think of it as something unpleasant, understanding the root of the term reinforces the role of these practices as things that help us to grow.
So, if we’ve been a little lax thus far during Lent, let us renew our commitment to engage in these disciplines that nourish our growth in God.