OGDEN -- Like the 40-day fast in which Jesus Christ went without food or water as he prepared for his earthly mission, Christians who celebrate Lent are giving up some of their earthly desires from now until Easter.
The Lenten season, which officially began with Ash Wednesday this week, is designed to bring believers to a better knowledge of Christ and enhance their journey with him.
"This year, we are concentrating on the Lenten journey to Easter joy," said Sister Stephanie Mongeon, a nun at Mount Benedict Monastery in South Ogden. "We are stressing those things that are barriers to Christ's love."
She said the Lenten message she is sharing is about bringing Christ's love to others by going out of oneself to be much more concerted in helping others.
"It's about being positive and joyful in your relationships," she said. "Too often, if we just concentrate on what we are going to give up, we become self-centered.
"We need to be more others-centered. What can we do to bring Christ's love to others?"
Pastor Kurt Hering, of Trinity Lutheran Church in Ogden, and a colleague wrote in an article for another publication that the word "Lent" means spring.
"In the holy Christian Church, Lent is known as a time to reflect on Baptismal rebirth -- the time when we spring forth from death into life.
"It begins with Ash Wednesday, when we ponder our own mortality -- our return to the earth from which God formed us; and continues through Easter Sunday as a time of penitence, cleansing and discipleship."
In an Ash Wednesday presentation he gave to his congregation, Hering said the first day of Lent was about absolution.
"Confession has two parts: first, that we confess our sins and, second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness from the pastor and from God himself, not doubting but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven by God in heaven," he said, quoting from his church's Small Catechism.
He said ashes from Ash Wednesday services may be used to remind church members that God formed them from the dust of the ground, and to that ground they will return.
"Ash Wednesday faces us up to our sins, to all the idols we have treasured up for ourselves," he said.
In an e-mail to the Standard-Examiner, Sister Danile Knight of Mount Benedict Monastery wrote this statement:
"How often have you heard someone say 'What are you doing for Lent this year?'
"As a Benedictine when it comes time for Lent, I look to Benedict to help me decide what acts of penance or giving I should do. Benedict has an entire chapter in his Rule on 'The Observance of Lent.' "
Knight said Benedict explained the following about Lent:
"The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times.
"During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food and drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
In other words, let each one deny herself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing."
"What we do is perhaps not as important as WHY we do it," Knight wrote. "It is a time to deepen our relationship with Jesus and, as Benedict said, 'wash away the sins of other times.'"
So, Knight wrote, during Lent, it is good for observers to eat less, putting them in solidarity with those who are hungry and poor; give up some sleep and make some time for silence, spending that time in private prayer and listening for words that Jesus would speak.
"Let us use this time of Lent to walk with Jesus in his passion and death, and as Benedict said in his rule, 'look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.'"