Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Services, Traditions Mark Area's Observance of Lent

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Services, Traditions Mark Area's Observance of Lent

Article excerpt

Area Christians are observing Lent - the six-week symbolic journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter and from spiritual darkness to light - in a variety of ways.

Catholics and Protestants will attend special weekly Lenten services and adhere to old traditions of fasting and abstinence. Giving up monetary and culinary pleasures to remember the suffering of Christ is a tradition among many of the faithful.

In some churches, statues are shrouded in purple, signifying penitence, and sanctuaries are decorated with cactus plants recalling the 40 days Christ spent in the desert.

At least two area churches will observe the ancient bond between the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter with a combined Jewish seder and Christian communion.

Lent, like many religious holidays, is what Alan Meyers calls "baptized paganism." Meyers is professor of religion at Lindenwood College.

"The word Lent comes from lengthening, because it is the season of longer days. Even Easter was named for the Germanic goddess of spring," Meyers said.

But he says Christians observe Lent in more positive ways these days.

"There is a growing tendency not to so much give something up as to take something up - like spiritual readings or prayer," Meyers said. "And people not only avoid spending money on some pleasure, but more and more they're giving that money to some cause."

Lent evokes the traditions of childhood for many Christians while it mirrors societal and liturgical change - change that some Catholics lament.

St. Peters Catholic Church member Sue Felder, 58, said that compulsory fasting, abstinence and attendance at holy week ceremonies have relaxed since she was a child.

"The instant gratification society wasn't there when I was young. Back then, there was a habit during Lent of not indulging every little whim. We were expected to train our bodies to reign in our appetites for the duration of Lent," she recalled.

Older Catholics such as Ralph Molitor remember clearly the moment the traditional meatless Lenten fast ended. …

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