To Keep A True Lent

On the Wednesday of the week before Great Lent begins, we read these words from the Prophet Joel:

“Yet even now,” says the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil.  (Joel 2:12-13)

The fast acceptable to the Lord is focused on changing our hearts, not our diets.  So English Poet Robert Herrick (d. 1674) lyricizes:

“Is this a Fast, to keep

The Larder leane?

And cleane

From fat of Veales and Sheep?

Is it to quit the dish

Of Flesh, yet still

To fill

The platter high with Fish?

Is it to faste an houre

Or rag’d to go,

Or show

A downcast look, and sour?

No; ‘tis a Fast, to dole

Thy sheaf of wheat

And meat

Unto the hungry soule.


It is to fast from strife,

From old debate

And hate;

To circumcise thy life.

To shew a heart grief-rent;

To starve thy sin,

Not Bin;

and that’s to keep thy Lent.”

(in The Time of the Spirit: Readings Through the Christian Year, p 119)