Lent is a time of asceticism, a word that points back to the training of athletes in the ancient world. The monks took on a training program for the spiritual life in the desert through regular prayer and fasting in fraternity with other men. Just like preparing for a race, Lent presents a time of regular exercise for the spiritual life, following Christ into the desert to pray and fast with him.
Asceticism is necessary for the spiritual life because we must take up our cross to follow Jesus. The Christian life, however, calls us to nothing less than dying to ourselves so that we can live for God. In our weakness, we tend to think of ourselves first, putting our feelings and desires before other people and even before God. Jesus calls us, with his help, to reverse that order, putting God and others before ourselves, being drawn out of ourselves in love.
The problem is that loving God and others before self is easier said than done. This is why we have penitential times so that we can learn to say “no” to ourselves and our desires. Even something as simple as not eating the food that we like or as much as we like is a sign that we are called to sacrifice for something greater. The forty days of Lent will bear real fruit, if our asceticism prunes our attachments and desires, freeing us up for what is most important.
From basic penitential acts, we are called to deeper, internal acts of putting others before self. First of all, sacrificing time for God in prayer says “no” to being in control of our own time. We recognize that God is more important than the things we want to do. We are called to faith and obedience to God, putting his will and truth before our own opinions and desires. Asceticism bears real fruit by focusing more intently on God and spending time with him in prayer.
It is the same with others. We need to make time to be present to others, both our families and those in need. Carving out time to serve others shows that we are not simply trapped within ourselves. We have to learn to be attentive to what others need and to make sacrifices to help them. Our asceticism, therefore also needs to focus on media and technology, which to saturate our lives and cloud out the presence of others.
Exodus’s Lenten exercise will provide a means of entering into deeper prayer, asceticism, and fraternity, providing a comprehensive experience of renewal. It can be hard to find a concrete path for this holy season, but the disciplines that Exodus provides–giving up food, time in prayer, or putting others first–are sacrifices that enable us to take up our cross with Jesus. They make us Christ-like in imitating Jesus’s love of the Fathers and those for whom he gave his life. To enter fruitfully into Holy Week and Easter, we need intentional preparation so that God will realize his promise of new life within us.
Here is a list of Exodus’s Lenten disciplines:
- – Read Exodus Reading & Reflection
- – Make a Holy Hour each Day (learn how here)
- – Make a Morning Offering
- – Make a Nightly Examen
- – Celebrate the Lord’s Day on Sundays
- – Get a Full Night’s Sleep (8 hours is recommended)
- – Take Cold Showers
- – Exercise 3x per Week
- – Avoid Unnecessary Smartphone Use
- – Avoid Unnecessary Computer Use
- – Give Up Video Games
- – Give Up TV
- – Give Up Alcohol
- – No Soda or Sweet Drinks
- – No Snacking between Meals
- – No Desserts or Sweets
- – Listen only to Music that Lifts the Soul to God
- – No Unnecessary Purchases
- – Fast on Wednesdays & Fridays (eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals)
- – No Meat on Wednesdays & Fridays
- – Daily Anchor Check-in (one of the men in your fraternity)
- – Weekly Fraternity Meeting (5-7 men)
- – If you need help building your brotherhood, check out the NEW Community tab on the Exodus 90 app where you can see local fraternities near you, or you can join a remote fraternity on the app as well.
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