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Lent: It is not just for Catholics

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According to Dennis Bratcher, writing for "The Voice," Lent is not just for Catholics. The most sacred time of the year for most Christians is becoming ever more popular with Protestants. Bratcher cites protests against Catholicism and rejection of a "high church" liturgical style of worship as the main reasons why so many Protestants have rejected Lent in the past.

Increasingly, argues Bratcher, more Protestants are "recovering aspects of a larger Christian tradition as a means to refocus on spirituality in a culture that is increasingly secular." Lent offers the perfect time to recover one's spirituality. This 40 days of fasting and prayer stands in the long tradition of the sacred number 40 which means a time of testing and trial in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. The Hebrews spent 40 years wondering in the wilderness after their deliverance from slavery; Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tested by the devil -- these are just a few examples of how 40 is a sacred symbol from the numerology of the Bible.

During Lent, it is customary to give up something such as a food or drink or activity during the entire time of Lent and then have some dedicated periods of fasting such as sun up to sun down and Good Friday to Easter Sunday. There are no hard and fast rules and people are encouraged to do whatever they can do consistent with their health and environment. Anyone with a medical condition or who takes medication ought to consult with a healthcare specialist before undertaking fasting. For those who cannot fast, it is customary to take on some special activity such as volunteering at a hospital or homeless shelter.

In recovering Lent as a spiritual discipline, Protestants can close the door on a historical misunderstanding and protest and open the door to new possibilities of understanding and cooperation among what is the largest religion in the world and also the most divided.

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