Most Regency gentlemen and ladies were members of the Church of England, so most of them would – in some form, at least – have celebrated Lent, the forty days of fasting and repentance that are traditionally observed before Easter.
I love Lent. I rarely enjoy Lent. But I do love it. It is such a good tool in God’s hands. I always learn, I always grow. But I often learn more from the places where I fail than the places where I succeed.
I sometimes think the purpose of fasting is to make it clear to us what sinners we really are. Not in a defeating, accusing way (the way the Enemy would), but more the way tiredness reveals the two-year-old-ness of two-year-olds. In Lent, the voice you hear isn’t the diabolical, “well what did you think you were, you scum?” but the Fatherly, “you really are tired, aren’t you, small one? Come and rest.”
As C. S. Lewis once pointed out, our good moods often aren’t, as we’d like to suppose, evidence of our virtue, but evidence of our full bellies and our good health. Take away food or health or rest and you can see how weak you really are. But fasting, in its orderliness, reveals our weakness to us in a way we can stand. It doesn’t destroy us because it is intrinsically linked to prayer, and so as soon as our weakness is revealed, there we are in the presence of our Father. And there our weakness isn’t despair, it’s joy, because He is ever ready to supply our lack. Praise God!
Peace of Christ to you,
P.S. the title quotation is from English poet George Herbert’s excellent poem “Lent”.