Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40-day period, which in German is sometimes called the “Paschal time of penance,” and is also commonly referred to as simply Lent (in German, Fastenzeit: “time to fast” or “fasting time”). What kind of a reflection does one put for this on the homepage of a religious community? That’s not so easy to answer, some sisters thought, when the conversation happened to touch on this question.

The fact that the question of fasting is not so easy is nothing new. Even in Jesus' time, it was obviously an uncomfortable topic. One day, according to the Evangelist St. Matthew, John's disciples came to Jesus and said: "Why don't your disciples fast while we and the Pharisees fast?” Jesus answered them: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (cf. Mt 9:14 ff.)

Jesus does not give an easy answer to the question of fasting, but He gets to the heart of the matter. For Him, the question of fasting is a question of relationship:

  • Who is God for me, who is Jesus for me?
  • Do I see God as someone who is preparing a feast for me, yes, even a wedding feast, and that He therefore sent His Son to us?
  • Do I see Jesus as someone who wants to invite me into the most intimate communion with Himself and therefore with God?

To find communion with Him is like a wedding feast. To stand outside of this communion is like a time in the desert, a time of mourning. To search for Him and the communion with Him is the meaning of this time of fasting, of Lent:

  • Seeing where He is not yet the center of my life
  • Seeing where I have still not given Him permission to enter
  • Seeing where His way of thinking has not yet sufficiently shaped my way thinking
  • And then realizing that these half measures don't leave me fulfilled

This is a time to allow myself to be filled by God’s love, for what we seek during Lent is a fullness, not a sullen making do with less. It is about yearning and longing for more.

When a high altar in a church is covered by a Lenten veil (Fastentuch), then this longing is awakened anew. In our convent church, the huge purple Lenten veil covers the radiant Christ the King. During this time, we thus allow the longing in us to awaken, that He may again truly gaze upon us – as our King or, as Jesus put it, as our Bridegroom.