Easter Sunday means more than brightly colored baskets and chocolate bunnies to many people. To Christians, the holiday will provide an opportunity to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. And to some, it brings an end to an agonizing 40 days of sacrifice.
The Christian observance of Lent begins Ash Wednesday and ends the day before Easter. Many Christians, and even non-Christians, observe Lent by giving up something. Some abstain from eating favorite fatty foods; others give up hobbies or hang-ups.
That idea comes from Jesus' command in the Bible to fast and pray, according to the Rev. Ronald Cellini of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Bluffton.
"Lent means 'spring,' and it's really a kind of new birth," Cellini said. "It's like a built-in renewal every year."
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Cellini said since the early days of Christianity, Lent has been a time of intense preparation for new Christians to get ready for baptism, confirmation and first Communion. He said the preferred time for adults to go through this process is at the Easter vigil. In ancient Christianity, Lent also was a time for sinners to repent in preparation for Holy Communion.
"Lent is just allowing God to work in us," Cellini said. "It's not what we do that makes a difference but how we're open to God to allow him to change us. The whole process is to remove stuff within us to make space for God."
Here are some of the Lenten sacrifices readers of The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette have made this year.
Hilton Head Island
I have given up alcohol and chocolate for Lent. I would like to lose a few pounds but have no motivation to exercise so I thought this would be easier for me. It hasn't been difficult, even when I attend functions where alcohol is being served. I just have my "water with a slice of lime." I will most likely go back to alcohol and chocolate after Lent, but in moderation. However, on Easter Sunday I think I'll treat myself to a chocolate martini.
During the 1920s and 30s, my mom and dad had five children -- three boys and two girls. During Lent, we would abstain from eating candy. When someone would give us candy (of course we would not buy any during Lent), we would put it in a safe place until Easter. When Easter came, we would decorate a shoebox with colorful paper and fill it with the saved candy. The saved candy became our mom and dad's Easter present. Today, some 80 years later, I still abstain from eating candy during Lent. On Easter Sunday this year, I will enjoy watching my great grandchildren search for colored eggs carefully hidden in their backyard. I plan to share my story of past Easters with them.
I have given up Diet Cokes because I was drinking entirely too many of those.
In addition, I am also writing one note a day to someone I care about. Yes, an old-fashioned note on a pretty little notecard which the recipient can hold in his or her grubby little paws and enjoy and perhaps use as a bookmark, as I often do. It has gotten too easy to use email, causing letter writing to become a dying art. Shame on us!
Broad River Elementary School nurse
You want to know what I'm giving up for Lent?
I'm abstaining from caffeine. The sacrifice has been difficult because caffeine is in so many products I just love to eat. I chose caffeine because I was involved in a classroom science project at Broad River Elementary School called "Does caffeine raise your blood pressure?" On Easter Sunday after Lent ends I hope to continue this journey.
Hilton Head Island
I gave up wearing jewelry for Lent. I am already on a very strict diet, so there wasn't much I could give up in that regard. I have to admit, not wearing rings, earrings, necklaces or a watch has been very difficult, even nerve-wracking, which is good since sacrifice is what Lent is all about. After Lent, I'll go back to knowing what time it is!
I work part-time so I really enjoy my days off with a leisurely cup of coffee and Sudoku. During Lent I give up that special time and go off to Mass. My objective is two fold: I sacrifice my "me time" and benefit from attendance at Mass and receiving communion.