Pause in Lent 1

I’m joining in with Angela, over at Tracing Rainbows for A Pause in Lent

I know I’m also blogging about 40 Acts, but I wanted to try to join in with PiL as well. I thought that this year I would find some poems and post those. This one spoke to me – the language is a tad archaic, and I’m not sure I understand it all, but, I share it with you…

a-pause-in-lent-flossTo Keep a True Lent

Is this a Fast, to keep
the larder leane?
and cleane
from fat of Veales and Sheep?

Is it to quit the dish
of Flesh, yet still
to fill
the platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an houre
or rag’d go,
or show
a down cast look, and sour?

No: ‘tis a fast, to dole
thy sheaf of wheat
and meat
unto the hungry soule.

It is to fast from strife,
from old debate
and hate:
to circumcise thy life.

To shew a heart grief-rent;
to starve thy sin,
not Bin
and that’s to keep thy Lent.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

I like this very much, as it reminds us that – although many people do choose to give something up for Lent – this is not the aim. It is not a time to renounce one thing, but make up for it in another (How many times did I announce I’d given up biscuits for Lent, only to gorge on cake or chocolate instead?!) Nor is the purpose of Lent to look miserable.

In the first three verses, Herrick asks us the question: Is this what Lent is about?  – and then turns the question on its head. He reminds us that Lent is not about keeping the larder empty – but rather we give generously of what we have to those in need. We are to fast not from meat or fish,; but rather from raking up old arguments, strife and hatred. And not to starve the body, but rather to be repentant and “starve” the sin that is in our hearts.

40 Acts is about fasting from hate, it’s about giving to the hungry and those in need, it’s about showing we understand that it is our sin, and greed, and lack-of-love that keeps us from a right relationship with God. We give up our sin, and give in to Christ.


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