Giving Up Chocolate for Lent

I give up chocolate for Lent. This is a serious sacrifice for a woman who loves chocolate. It is the … Continued

I give up chocolate for Lent.

This is a serious sacrifice for a woman who loves chocolate. It is the food of the god/desses. No matter what is going on in my life, chocolate makes it better. If there is no chocolate in heaven, I will demand to be reborn. I will gladly suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune for a good piece of dark chocolate. The precocious child with the wise eyes and easy smile, the child who old folks say has been here before, no doubt came back to get some chocolate. Or, it could be that chocolate is a little taste of heaven. An incentive. Now nutritionists say that dark chocolate is full of anti-oxidants. It is health food. Joy.

When Valentine’s Day comes before Lent, I buy myself a nice box of chocolates. Little nuggets of wonderful with caramel or raisins, or nuts, or cherries or something else gooey sweet inside make me happy. I buy my own chocolate, a gift to myself from myself to remind myself that no one will or ought to love me more than I love myself. I will give up almost anything for the right cause, but if some child in the two-thirds world is living under oppression and I have to give up chocolate to call attention to the injustice, I must confess that I will think twice. Let us find another strategy. There is more than one way to make a point.

So, why do I give up this stuff I love for Lent? What does Lent mean?

I have always thought the ecclesiastical calendar follows the seasons of seed time and harvest. It is a way to make our struggles with the natural world holy. In the northern hemisphere, Fall brings us Halloween and All Saints Day when the line between life and death becomes silver-thin invisible, days darken earlier and we celebrate the harvest with feasts. Christmas is a celebration of the winter solstice and the birth of Jesus, who for Christians is the light of the world. Days become longer and there is still food for celebration. Lent, it seems to me, is a time of fasting that may have come about when it was difficult to keep food and when the storage from the harvest ran low. In Christian tradition, it is a time of penance and of preparation for Easter. It is a time to imitate Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness before he started his ministry. Then Spring comes. We celebrate the renewal of life. Birds return, flowers bloom, melted snow and spring rain makes the earth soft again beneath our feet. We celebrate resurrection. We plant. Summer comes and we work and play in ordinary time awaiting the harvest.

However, my association of the Lenten fast with low food supply does not hold today in the United States. We live in a society of abundance. Even in these hard economic times, we can go to a supermarket any season of the year and find shelves stocked with a wide variety of food. There are all kinds of fruits and vegetables and meats and cereals and breads. And the chocolate – Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chocolate chip ice cream and more. We do not have to fast because we are running low on food.

Yet, there is something to be said for fasting as penance and as preparation. We do not like the concept of penance. It brings with it visions of sackcloth and ashes, of societal judgment against us, of sin and of punishment. We try everyday to do the best we can, to lead moral live, to mind our own business and to not hurt other people. Yet, if truth be told, we know we have missed the mark. We have done what we ought not to have done. We have left undone what we ought o have done. Fasting something, reminds us of our own imperfections and warns us against our own self-righteousness. It reminds us to give grace and forgiveness to others as we need their grace and forgiveness.

As a time of preparation, Lent is important. Giving up something reminds Christians that Jesus, the Son of God, gave his life so that we may have eternal life. It can also remind us, both Christians and non Christians, of the salvific character of the life and teaching of the man Jesus. Womanist theologian Delores Williams reminds us of this in her work. She reminds us of the importance of the wilderness in our theological and moral reckoning.

So, standing in grocery store, drugstore, bookstore lines, facing down the chocolate bars, I am reminded of Jesus’ teaching to love my enemies, to go the extra mile, to turn the other cheek and to take care of the poor. I am reminded of my obligation to work to bring the realm of God and God’s radical love to earth as it is in heaven. I am reminded of all the people in the world for whom fasting is not a choice but a way of life because they do not have enough to eat.

I give up chocolate for Lent to remind myself that the redemption of the world in time is our work. I remind myself that with sacrifice and with love this is possible.

Valerie Elverton Dixon was on the faculty at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Mass.

  • CCNL

    Fasting during Lent would be the better choice.

  • mmm1110

    This has got to be the stupidest article I have ever read.Giving up chocolate during Lent is not going to do a thing to make the world a better place. I do hope, though, that you manage to survive 40 days without chocolate.

  • markinirvine

    Oh no … here is lent again. My wife gives up chocolate for lent too, and MY personal sacrifice during lent is to go out into the dark, cold world every Sunday evening during lent, to look for whatever chocolate thing it is that she has decided she may have on Sundays in consideration of her sacrifice Monday through Saturday: chocolate-cappuccino brownie from the the ubiquitous green and white coffee shop; hot fudge sundae (hold the ice cream, please; double the nuts and whipped cream and heat the fudge) from the gold-miner-themed-enormous-portion restaurant around the corner; chocolate something-or-other from the French-style chain bistro named after the French sparkling wine from Reims/Epernay and staffed by Brasilians. I don’t know what atonement her 6-days-out-of-7 self-denial earns for her, but I know that I am accruing points in the bingo-game that is gambling on the after-life by my weekly trudge into the cold to eep the little woman happy. Amen.

  • globalone

    I’m not Catholic but I recall from my childhood days that Lent was supposed to be about sacrifice.I don’t mean to be overly harsh, but giving up chocolate as a “sacrifice” is an insult to the word “sacrifice” and the meaning behind it. We don’t need chocolate to sustain ourselves, no matter how strong your sweet tooth may be. And I’m guessing you’ll substitute your chocolate fix with something of a similar nature.How about giving up the weekly dinner out at the nice restaurant and serving in a soup kitchen instead?

  • patricksarsfield

    Mam1110 writes:Lent is not about making the world a better place. It is about personal repentance and reflection on the perfect sacrifice of the Man-God Jesus Christ. Lent is a period of internal reflection that leads inexorably to Holy Week and Easter Sunday, during which we concentrate on the texts that again retell the Sufferings, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior.We Catholics recognize His sacrifice as the central event in the History of the World, and as the meritorious sacrifice which has enabled us to be reconciled to God. Through our participation in the re-presentation of that once for all sacrifice in the Holy Mass throughout the Year and our individual sacrifices and other good works at times such as Lent, we Catholics hope to participate in the Mystical Body of Christ and to proclaim the redemptive value of Christ’s sacrifice.

  • Maryann261

    What sacrifice is there in giving up chocolate? That is the kind of sacrifice that requires nothing from a person. It only makes the person look self-indulgent and silly.

  • patricksarsfield

    MMM writes:”I know all about Lent. I was raised a Catholic. Denying oneself chocolate does not lead to self-reflection, nor is it a sacrifice of any kind. Volunteering to give up one’s time and help at a charitable organization would be some sacrifice while at the same time helping people less fortunate. I think Globalone said it all quite well. The idea that doing without chocolate for 40 days is a sacrifice actually makes a mockery out of real sacrifice. “You apparently have substituted Liberal Political Orthodoxy or perhaps ethical do-goodism for your former religion. You don’t think that giving up chocolate is a sacrifice. Other people do. You don’t find that it leads to self reflection; others do. Some of those others might find that volunteering at a charitable organization would not lead to self-reflection; you haven’t stated whether you do. Hmmm….let’s examine what you seem to be saying: your giving up chocolate would not lead to self-reflection on your part; therefore, it cannot lead to self-reflection in anyone. I must conclude that your comments are rather solipsistic ones.

  • patricksarsfield

    Maryann writes:You have this backwards. The person who is eating chocolate is being self-indulgent not the person who gives it up. How much sacrifice does it take to give up chocolate? I should think that depends on the person. If it is easy for a person to give something up, then it is probably not much of a sacrifice and probably won’rt lead to much self-reflection. On the other hand, if a person habitually eats or does something that he/she gives up for Lent, the constant self-denial involved in remembering not to do that which one is used to doing, but has given up can focus one’s mind on the reason one has given it up. That is, so that one can remind oneself of the gift Jesus gave us when He sacrificed Himself for our sins. It is that salvational act and His Glorious Resurrection that Lent is designed to focus on. Our sacrifices, at best, are pale imitations of the sempiternal sacrifice that has earned us salvation. The Catholic Church constantly works to focus us on that sacrifice. That is why the Mass focuses so exclusively on Jesus’s Last Supper, Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection. That is why the crucifixes that are the central focus of a Catholic Church bear the broken body of Christ upon them. That is why we cross ourselves whenever we pray. And that is why we take on sacrifices to remind us of His in the preparatory season of Lent, too.

  • slowe111

    This LENT thing is truely stupid. I have a gay Christian boyfriend – who is in a steady relationsship with a man, but for lent, he gives up his occassional sex visits with me! This is REALLY stupid. I hate Christianity.

  • patricksarsfield

    SLowe writes:”This LENT thing is truely stupid. I have a gay Christian boyfriend – who is in a steady relationsship with a man, but for lent, he gives up his occassional sex visits with me! This is REALLY stupid. I hate Christianity.”Your friend definitely seems conflicted. I don’t know him, so I cannot say whether he is stupid or not. You call the ancient practice of Lent stupid as well, but you offer no reason beyond your friend’s conflicted situation. Thus, I cannot comment further on your observation. Nor will I comment on your hatred of Christianity.

  • CCNL

    Give us a break!!!Chocolate lovers who give up chocolate for Lent simply get their sugar and caffeine fix by other means.