In the Catholic, Episcopalian and other Christian Churches, today is the first day of Lent, a Season for Fasting, Praying, Reflecting, Giving Up Vices in spiritual and physical preparation for the Holy arrival of Easter. As most like to party hearty, the prelude to this somber season of the religious calendar includes the intense Revelry and Celebrations of Mardi Gras and Carnival.
Lent is the Christian season of preparation before Easter. In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 daysprior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count).
Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ - his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection. Not all Christian churches observe Lent. Lent is mostly observed by the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglicandenominations, and also by Roman Catholics. Eastern Orthodox churches observe Lent or Great Lent, during the 6 weeks or 40 days preceding Palm Sundaywith fasting continuing during the Holy Weekof Orthodox Easter. Lent for Eastern Orthodox churches begins on Monday (called Clean Monday) and Ash Wednesday is not observed.
The Bible does not mention the custom of Lent, however, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21. (from About.com - more here.)
So it is perhaps a good time to dig out those unkept New Year's Resolutions for starters or begin anew with serious consideration to what would make your life healthier/happier both spiritually and physically. There are so many articles on how fasting can help heal ailments from arthritis to cancer to diabetes to obesity. while 40 days and 40 nights is too extreme/unrealistic for most, there are variations such as fast one day, eat regularly the next...any of which should be discussed with your physician before starting. There are studies of how the brain changes, with the most poignant being among Franciscan Nuns deep in group prayer.
Endless examples of longevity and wisdom exist across most religions, where deep individual mediation is involved. The power of Group Prayer by ordinary individuals has been espoused for centuries and more recently since WWII. You may have seen an email about Winston Churchill's starting a minute of prayer each night during the war to help England. In actuality, according to truthorfiction.com, another man, W. Tudor Pole, an English Author, Businessman and Author probably originated the idea.
During World War II, he campaigned for what came to be called "The Big Ben Silent Minute." The chiming of the Big Ben clock in London at 9:00 PM took about a minute. The chimes were broadcast each night on BBC radio at the beginning of the 9:00 news. Pole suggested that the hearing of the chimes, either in person, or on the BBC should be accompanied by one minute of silent prayer for those who had been killed that day in battle as well as remembering all who had been killed in the war. Churchill supported the idea, which became known as the "Big Ben Movement."
For millions for centuries, this ritual has been meaningful, and perhaps there is something we can learn in these modern times from the wisdom of the past...when Pharmaceutical Reps spent less time in your doctors' offices than you/other patients did. Healing powers may be within us and far more simple than all the hype (as seen on TV)...and with far fewer side effects! Ask your doctor! To a Healthy Life for You and Your Loved Ones!