Lenten traditions: Prayer, fasting, giving

Published March 6, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Ash Wednesday, observed on March 2 this year, is the beginning of Lent.

In a predominantly Christian country like the Philippines, the Lenten season does not need much explanation.  Lent recalls the 40 days of Jesus’ fasting in the desert before he entered His public ministry.

Roman Catholics and some Protestant churches observe Lent with prayer, fasting and giving.

The tradition of giving has become a significant focus of observing Lent at a time when there are so many people who have lost jobs and sources of income due to the pandemic. Giving is an act that can deliver the powerful message of love for one’s neighbor.

There are many ways to give – and many more people waiting to receive.  Church groups and foundations have existing programs to feed the hungry, provide medical attention to the sick, and give training for livelihood activities. 

Perhaps now is the time to start a new family tradition of giving directly to a family in need who lives in the same neighborhood. There are many parents who are struggling to provide three meals a day to their children.

Another way to practice the Lenten tradition of giving is to perform random acts of kindness.  Start by being more generous to the delivery riders who bring your food orders by including a drink or a meal for them.  Give a meal to someone you meet briefly during the week – the gas attendant, car wash boys, security guard, errand girl. Donate a generous amount to a scholarship fund or to your church.   

A good thought that can extend random acts of kindness to last throughout the year: “For people whose lives are generally easy, Lent is a time to empathize better with those who genuinely go without luxuries or even simple needs (Christianity.com).”

 The two other pillars or traditions of Lent – prayer and fasting – are equally important and should not be put aside. Prayer is talking to God and brings one closer to Him. It especially strengthens our spiritual discipline.

 Fasting is associated with the Lenten season and is inspired by the 40-day fasting of Jesus. It is a practice to strengthen one’s self control over things that one enjoys, like food. Those who do not practice fasting for age or medical reasons practice abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays of Lent.

For many Filipinos, Lent is also the time for sacrifice which takes the form of giving up favorite activities or things that give one delight, like shopping or video games.

More traditions will be observed as the Lenten season nears Holy Week with rituals  from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It is hoped that we will still be under alert level one and can observe more of these religious traditions in the churches. That would bring many families to churches to do the Way of Cross, a prayer ritual practiced on the Fridays of Lent.

As Lenten traditions strengthen our bond to our faith, it also brings us together as a community.