STUDENTS FAST AND REFLECT
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, 40 days prior to Easter, many Christian denominations observe the season of Lent, a liturgical season which commemorates the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Wednesday, Feb. 14, and will be observed during a brief chapel service on campus.
Although Lent is often thought of as a time of deprivation from things that are enjoyable or a period of getting rid of bad habits, it is so much more than that. The custom of fasting did not originate as a second attempt at keeping New Year’s resolutions alive, but rather as a practice in mourning Christ’s death and recognizing his sacrifice on the cross. The culmination of Lent is Easter Sunday, a celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
It may be hard to imagine Easter on the horizon with heaps of snow in the way, but senior Beth Benschoter feels that the timing of the Lenten season could not be more appropriate.
“I love that Lent usually aligns with the dreary end of the winter season because it provides a powerful symbolism of the darkness that Christ faced before he could offer the hope of salvation through the Resurrection,” Benschoter said. “Easter usually begins the warmer spring weather, just like it marks the joy and freedom of the Resurrection.”
The 40 days of Lent also allow Christ-followers to reflect on his beautiful sacrifice for a longer period of time than just Good Friday or Easter weekend.
With the coming joy of Easter in mind, both Benschoter and freshman Halle Van Vark will observe Lent by intentionally spending more devotional time with God. They remarked that, for them, Lent is not about “giving things up,” but rather spending more time reflecting on the sacrifice of Christ.
To that end, Benschoter is going to focus her time on reading through the Gospels, which former faculty member Jackie Smallbones encouraged her to do at least once a year. Van Vark has set a goal of spending one hour with God each day, whether that be through reading Scripture, praying or worshipping through painting.
“For me, I think that spending more time in devotion will force me to be more aware of the reason for Lent,” Van Vark said, “rather than just be annoyed at myself that I can’t eat chocolate.”
While many college students may feel like Lent is unachievable since they might not have much to “give up” and perhaps not enough time to add a Lenten practice, Benschoter remarked that college students need this time of reflection to bring their focus back from future plans to the present gift of eternal life.
Van Vark believes the time is essential for realigning one’s focus.
“I think Lent is especially important for college students because it makes us slow down a little bit and remember something really important: that God humbled himself by coming to Earth and Jesus Christ suffered on the cross to forgive us of our sins,” Van Vark said.
Lent is a season of consciously remembering the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and looking forward to celebrating his resurrection and the gift of eternal life. It does not have to be a season of avoiding sweets, but it can be a sweet time of year to intentionally spend more time with the God who gives salvation.