Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lent, Fasting, Sloth

I can't believe Lent begins next week. I was gung-ho for it at the beginning of the month, but the past two weeks have slipped by, and now it's almost here. And like every year, I don't feel ready in the least.

Ready? Sure, I have sermons to prepare, bulletins to get out and so forth, but that's not why I feel unprepared. It's the fast. It is Fastenzeit, after all.

Of the fast, it is not the prospect of eating less that bothers me. It is the realization that I will be constantly aware of what I'm eating and how much. It's the awareness, the watchfulness, the nepsis of it all that has me feeling like it should wait a while.

Of course, that is one of the reasons for the fast: to pass auf, to wake up, to rise from our slumber, from watching the wheels turn round and round, to doing. To acting. To hearing. To being.

The Seven Deadly Sins are not often named in Lutheran circles, but should be. Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Avarice, Wrath, Envy, Pride. In that order, from kitchen knife to guillotine in degree of danger. Sloth is the sin at hand. Sloth (or acedia...ennui) is not defined primarily by the lazing about on Summer's day, or the settling in for a long winter's nap. It is the sloth of unthinking, mindless busy-ness, of going through the motions-or not. It is sloth in pro forma recitations of the prayers, of having the mind shattered by ten thousand upon ten thousand things and giving nothing its due.

If one does the Lenten fast, you can be slothful no longer, and once awake, you will begin to see and do.


  1. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    I read "sloth" at first as "sith" and was wondering if this was going to be some sort of Star Wars post.

    How do you do your fast, if I may ask?

  2. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Here's the basic fast that Westerners have done:

    Fasting (two ¼ meals and 1 full) from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday.

    Abstinence (no meat, seafood allowed) on all Fridays

    Exceptions: Sundays in Lent;
    March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day) and
    March 25 (The Annunciation) unless it is during Holy Week.

    I alter it a bit and usually avoid meat on Wednesdays too. Sometimes I "give up" something as well.