The fact that Day 5 of Lent is actually the sixth day after it has started is evidence of one of the beauties of the practice, and it is significant enough to spend a few words writing about.
The best way, in my opinion, to practice the fasting aspect of Lent is to allow Sundays to be “feast days” (which is not my idea, but a regular form of the practice of Lent). This essentially means that whatever you have chosen to abstain from during the Lenten season, you get to partake of each Sunday. This is not about scheduling a “cheat day” in the cycle. It is much more beautiful than that. Sundays during Lent are celebration days, days when we remind ourselves that the last Sunday in the cycle is coming, that there is a Sunday on the way when we will allow our hearts to be filled to overflowing with the reality of the resurrection of the Christ.
Celebration days…let those two words roll off of the tongue. They are supposed to feel good. The idea of feasts and celebrations in the Hebrew culture was not about scheduling decadence, but it was a time when a break from the normal patterns of life were supposed to turn the attentions, and ideally the affections, toward God. I see the feast days of Lent in much the same way.
Certainly for six days I am penitently praying as I encounter the thing that I’m fasting. Certainly I am remembering ideas like sacrifice and suffering and service for the six days of willful restraint. But on the seventh day I get to remember that all is not lost, all is not suffering, all is not pain…there is joy, there is grace, there is celebration, there is a feast.
Lent must be as much about preparing ourselves to rejoice as it is about conditioning ourselves to be thankful. For thankfulness that doesn’t lead to rejoicing is an incomplete virtue.
While we must ask ourselves regularly, “have I fasted?” perhaps it would be wise for you and I, at least on occasion, to ask ourselves how long it has been since we feasted. Not necessarily on food, but perhaps on a day spent in nature, or an evening spent with friends and family – feasting is much more about drinking deeply of the good things the Creator has given to us, and much less about trying to negotiate one more chicken wing into our gullet before we pass out.