03/29/2012 11:09 am ET Updated May 29, 2012

Lent: Fasting and Feasting

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As we have been working through this Lenten season, we have been reminded that every Sunday during Lent is a mini-Easter. Whatever we have given up, whatever discipline we have taken on in the work of realizing a new creation, Sundays offer us a break. No matter how more or less rigorous we may have been in keeping our Lenten fasts, Sunday is meant to be a foretaste of the Easter feast.

Those reminders have been working on me. I realize that much of what passes for Christian faith seems to have given up on this rhythm of fasting and feasting. Other traditions, like our Muslim sisters and brothers, make this pattern central to the experience of faith. During the month of Ramadan, daylong fasts give way to evenings of feasting together. When I spent a little bit of time with them last year, I found this pattern both very human and very holy. Christians, it seems to me, either get stuck in fasting mode -- the spiritual life is all about giving up -- or they rush to feasting without any sense of self-examination, reflection on human need, or awareness of the cost our addiction to "abundance" has on our planet. Somewhere along the way we need to be reminded that the spiritual life is a rhythm of feasting and fasting.

I was thinking about this other day in another round of wrestling with the question of "enough." I have become fascinated with this question because the answer seems so illusive in a culture that is consumed by more than enough. What is enough? Would I recognize "enough" if I had it? What passes as "enough" and is really more than enough? I started wondering if there is a connection between the spiritual practice of fasting/feasting and recognizing "enough." Might I better understand what I really need and what is really available to me if I were to spend a period of time both in the reflection of fasting and the celebration of feasting?

And then something else occurred to me. Fasting is something I can do alone. But feasting -- well, that's something best done together! Someone reminded me the other day of a little book by German theologian, pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer simply titled, "Life Together." In it he warns of those who know how to be alone but have not learned how to be with others -- and vice versa, of course. For the good of the community, there is a rhythm to being alone and being in community -- or fasting and feasting, perhaps.

So the celebration of Easter is not about giving up Lent -- just like Lent wasn't about giving up Easter. It is all part of the same holy rhythm of discerning enough and learning what life together really means. That is enough -- and, in many ways, even more than enough. So, let the Lenten reflections continue and the Easter celebrations begin!