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Area residents observe Lent with sacrifices, spiritual practices

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Timmy Nations (from left) and Myron Bartholomew fry batches of fresh fish Friday night as part of the Knights of Columbus annual Lenten fish fry at St. Francis of Assisi Church Parish Center. Members are preparing fish dinners every Friday until Easter as part of the religious observation.

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Timmy Nations (from left) and Myron Bartholomew fry batches of fresh fish Friday night as part of the Knights of Columbus annual Lenten fish fry at St. Francis of Assisi Church Parish Center. Members are preparing fish dinners every Friday until Easter as part of the religious observation.

As part of an observance of Lent, Catholics and many other Christians are making sacrifices in the time leading up until Easter.

Owing to tradition, certain types of luxury, or habits, have become customary to give up each year during the 40 days of Lent. Abstention from the consumption of meat is one of the most consistent and practiced sacrifices.

“The original church made it a practice to eat fish on Fridays; this was an early form of fasting,” said the Rev. Anne Matthews of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. Over the years, the act has also been associated with a connection with the poor who typically had a sparse diet.

Whatever the sacrifice may be, its intent is closely connected to the idea of conversion, or turning one’s life more completely over to the principles taught by Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of one’s life forever.

“It’s also a time to retell biblical stories in a colorful, interesting way. At our church we are focusing on a modern day replica of what Jesus told his disciples: ‘Treat each other as I have treated you,” Matthews explained.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, the day after Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, and lasting until Easter, representing the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the dessert according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke in the New Testament.

On Ash Wednesday, ashes are applied to the worshipper’s forehead in the sign of the cross at which time the words “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return,” are often given.

The actual word “lent” is an English translation. It means spring, which is derived from the Germanic word for long, used at the time to denote the longer days of the season.

Over the years, Lent sacrifices have adapted with the times. Some worshippers give up modern day activities such as Facebook, Twitter or other social media.

Co-owner of Bob’s Sandwich Shop Jo-Ann Smith takes an interesting, albeit increasingly common approach to Lent. Rather then give up one particular luxury for the fasting, Smith is determined to give up something new each week until Lent is over.

“This week I have given up drinking tea,” Smith said. “The week after that, I plan to give up chocolate … as hard as that will be.”

The flipside of the Christian sacrifice of Lent is the commitment to add some kind of spiritual activity or devotion to one’s schedule.

“It’s not just about what you give up,” Smith said. “It’s about what you do to become closer with God.”

Smith says she will devote extra time each day to reading the Bible.

Matthews concurs. “The main thing that I do isn’t necessarily giving something up. Rather, I spend extra time each day in meditation, a kind of daily devotional. Now, I’m reading about Saint Paul.”

Last week, Matthew’s church held an Ash Wednesday service. For the duration of Lent, the church will also be conducting a 6 p.m. service, supper and program every Wednesday until Easter, Matthews said.

Most importantly, said Matthews, will be the church’s annual Seder feast to be held the Thursday before Good Friday. The feast is a Jewish tradition that marks the beginning of Passover.

Some other church denominations and organizations in Brookhaven have developed a tradition of fish fries during Lent.

The Knights of Columbus held a fish fry Friday night at the St. Francis of Assisi Parish Center. They will be frying fish there every Friday until Easter, starting at 5 p.m. Small plates are $6 and large plates are $8.