Lent and Lentils

It’s Lent again: Hooray!

By now, you may be reading the above words with disbelief. There is an ever-present temptation in times of fasting to dread what’s coming. The whole problem of having to be limited to fasting foods, the gastric pain of abstinence, and for all you poor mothers (and fathers) who have to prepare the food, that constantly annoying question of “Whatever am I going to cook tonight? We’re sick of lentils!”

Interestingly, the vegan vegetarian diet we adopt in Lent is meant to hark back to Paradise (did they have lentils in the Garden of Eden???) For of course, before the Fall, Adam and Eve ate no foods that involved the killing or suffering of animals.

The simpler diet is meant to lead us to a simpler lifestyle. Today, the variety of vegan foods available is far greater than it has ever been in history, I think. And yet, we still grumble.

My Confession Father once advised me to consider food and drink as nothing more than petrol for the tank during fasting times. Don’t worry about variety and taste and consistency, and all that stuff. So long as it contains the energy and nutrients you need to go about your daily business, just eat it. I have found that a very useful way to look at fasting food.

It confers the added benefit of independence. It is somehow liberating to be able to genuinely eat whatever food happens to present itself before you at any given time, and be quite content. There is a kind of joy in the victory over your tastebuds: “Aha, little buds! I have you now! No longer will you enslave me with your petty pickiness. I’ll show you … have another mouthful of lentils! Take that! And that!”

You may have noticed by now that I have lentils on the mind. I like lentils. They are small and humble, a poor man’s meal. And yet, with the right seasoning, they can be quite delicious. But they’re really not a Western dish. Many young people find a good bowl of lentils quite hard to stomach. And so they suffer in times like Lent. I sympathise. It took me some time to gain the victory over my stubborn tastebuds.

But then, isn’t that what Lent is all about? To eat like a poor person, that you may feel more empathy for the poor, be moved to help them more, and perhaps appreciate your own daily gifts that much more as well. The traditional great Easter Feast after the Resurrection liturgy is more than just a time for meatballs and turkey! It is a time for renewing old friendships with those chums, it is true. But think of the joy of that reunion. Think of how nice that food tastes, after a separation of 55 days. Well, maybe it’s better not to think too much about that when we’re only a couple of weeks into Lent. But my point is that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Through fasting, the joy of food that God created for us is renewed and reinvigorated, and with it, our joy in the Creator of the food Himself. As St Paul says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

So in Lent, we experience the victory of the spirit over the body, and thus approach closer to God. And after Lent is over, we experience the joy that God has written into all His creation, and thus approach closer to God. Each is all the more vivid an experience because of its opposite. Without the contrast, neither would be as powerful in leading us to God. In a simlar way, marriage throws into relief the beauty of the selfless sacrifice of celibacy, and celibacy brings an appreciation of the sacred mystery of marriage.

Lent … and lentils. Hmmm.

I think they were made for each other.

Fr Ant

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3 Replies to “Lent and Lentils”

  1. Oh Father Antonios and allllllll , you tackled an interesting topic brought me a lot of old good memories , Lentils reminded me of my grandparents and parents and all those old good days during fasting and all those real feelings of the pain of the poor and needy around us and the great blessings of sharing and giving and more closer to our Lord …those old good days through fasting and real making the spirit in control over the body is no more there in our today’s way of life of food fasting …. oh MY God , every thing is evolving , nothing is static and everything is dynamic …..i believe with time the Coptic Community every where had a big revolution in their way of food fasting , life is not is the life anymore …. now a days i believe food fasting is the most comfortable time of the year for the Coptes during the year as a healthy diet with a real balanced diet …. a lot of availability and variety of fasting food around them ,whatever you want you can eat and with the same nutritional value of all those essential elements and amino acids necessary for the body as eating meat and other non fasting tucker …. the other day some body gave me a piece of Chocolate, i thanked him and i told him i am diabetic and fasting , he answered me , oh mate this is a fasting chocolate!!!!??? try it .. May God have mercy on the souls of our grandparents and parents and the old good days , they realy did fasting in the hard way ???!!!!!!!!!!!

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  2. We have really started to lose the real meaning of fasting and controlling our bodies, thoughts…etc…

    We now have fasting cheese (including feta!), Chocolate, sausages….the list goes on….

    We really do need to get back to basics I think…

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  3. Halleloyea, praise the name of the Lord by your work ,amen ..our local church finaly decided to look after their family church congregation in the aspect of spiritual and social development through conferences … i believe it is the first family conference of its kind in our whole parish ….we thank our local priests” Archangel Mikhail and St Bishoy ” and all who will have input in such conferene , it is realy a great work specialy for our marginalised congregation of the western suburbs of Sydney ………..most families are happy for this great event and i beleve as others do that we started to be in the right positive direction which will bring a lot of blessed fruits to alll … all of us look forward for more coferences to bring our church congregation together and integrate them in one Australian Coptic Community in our church ….also another church in the Sydney area did the same..they started to have a social gathering on Sunday night ” some they call it club ” and that for all their church congregation as one integrated one ,from all different backgrounds of the church ” not Sudanese by themselves or Egyptians by themselves or whatever “to spend the night together in weekly bases , it is great work for one church community …also a group of our church psychologists and councellars conducting a couse organised by the Australian Christian Family Asociation ” a bunch of our boys and girls highly qualified psychologists and councellars ” in conjunktion our theological college in aCHRISTIAN COUNCELLING course ….thanks for their volunteered time to run this course of 12 sessions in weekly basis session after work , God bless them ……i personally attending it , oh mate it is great to improve your relatioship with your family ,friends , work and others around you …. i believe it gives the person a lot of skills and the tools to deal with most problems ,conflicts and problem solving … ..oh i believe our priests in our new parish in this part of the world will benefit a lot from it as well ….anyhow always there is room for improvement and we learn everyday ..may the holy spirit guide us alll to praise the name of the lord all the time and to strengten our Australian Copic Orthodox church and its community in faith , hope and love till thy kingdom come , amen ….

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