Lent has traditionally been a time to practice “mortification of the flesh.” That’s another concept we don’t hear too much about today.
But isn’t that Catholic? An example of that medieval asceticism that the Reformation reacted against? Not at all. Reformation Christians also emphasized mortification. In fact, it’s enshrined in the Lutheran confessions:
“We teach this about the putting to death of the flesh and discipline of the body. A true and not a false putting to death [mortification] happens through the cross and troubles, by which God exercises us . . . .There is also a necessary voluntary exercise. . . .This effort [at mortification] should be constant.”
Philip Melanchthon,“The Apology of the Augsburg Confession,” Article XV, in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), pp. 193-194.
This is pretty much the opposite of the “prosperity gospel.” God gives us the crosses we have to bear and the troubles of our lives in order to “exercise” us. Such problems and sufferings drive us to prayer, to greater dependence on God, and thus to the growth of our faith. Furthermore, we voluntarily mortify ourselves–not doing what we want, depriving ourselves of certain pleasures, denying ourselves for our neighbor–in a “constant” effort at self-discipline.
More on mortification, including its Biblical and theological basis, after the jump. [Read more…]