The buzzwords of this week (according to me)? Ritual, observance, fasting, prayer, new beginnings.
Monday marked Mahashivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva- a Hindu festival of fasting, prayer, and rituals. Worshippers of Shiva believe that their observances during Shivaratri will grant them expiation of all sins they have committed in the prior year. A fresh start.
Tuesday brought the new moon, which I observe as a monthly day of renewal and manifestation of my intentions- allowing them to come into being as the moon waxes.
And today (Wednesday)? Not only is it Losar (Tibetan New Year), it is also Ash Wednesday.
I was raised in a Catholic family. Or more accurately- I had devout Catholic grandparents, and I went to church on Christmas, Easter, and Sunday mornings after I had had a sleepover with my beloved Gram and Pap.
Lent was my first experience with fasting- a practice that I later embraced as an adult. My early memories of Lent include my grandfather giving up everything he enjoyed for the entire duration. I remember sitting at his right hand at the breakfast table on Easter morning, watching with delight as he had his first tastes of the things he had given up for Lent. I remember egging him on, making suggestions as to what should be his next reclaimed indulgence. Of course, my Johnny is a wonderful, wonderful man with a heart packed full of love for his family. I’m sure he played up the joy of breaking the fast to encourage my smiles and giggles.
Now, I sit here as a grown-up (??) who has found my way to the spiritual path. I love and adore Jesus, though my questing has hardly been limited to Christianity. It has led me all over- far, near, unfamiliar places, and the deepest places within my Self. It has even led me back to a curiosity about the religion I had ‘grown up’ with, beginning with Paramahansa Yogananda’s powerful and profound readings of Christian scripture.
With all of the observances of new beginnings happening this week, I felt a call to learn more about the Christian observances known as Lent. My initial experiences with Lent registered as something like an endurance test of self-deprivation. Giving up everything that brings you pleasure because… someone told you to do it. As a child, I understood that (follow the rules). As a teen, I rebelled and turned my back on the whole idea. As an adult who embraces a very personal version of spirit and spirituality, I have a renewed interest in Lent and what it all means.
The original Latin word for ‘Lent’ was Quadragesima, meaning ‘fortieth’. Although 40 has various significances in Christian scripture, the 40 days (+ or -) of Lent are generally described as a reflection of the 40 days Jesus spent “fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan.”
The observances of Lent are many, mostly focusing on giving up anything that tempts indulgence. Some devotees in the Eastern world even adhere to a vegan diet for the entire 40 days!
Through my adventures in yoga, I’ve become familiar with the yama Aparigraha (non-attachment), which urges the individual to renounce earthly attachments and give their undivided attention to God. ‘Clinging’ is another translation. Clinging to objects or attachments that keep the individual separate from The Whole.
So, the ‘renunciation’ bit, I get. Fasting, I get. But all of these other words came up as well. Penance, denial, deprivation, grief, repentance. Well… they remind me of the ‘Lent’ I remember. The ‘God’ I’ve come to know is not a harsh or punitive authority. He did not put us here to suffer??
As I read on, I discovered that ‘Quadragesima’ transformed to ‘Lent’ as the Church transitioned from Latin to the vernacular. ‘Lent’ derives from the German word ‘Lenz’ or the Dutch word ‘Lente’, meaning ‘Spring’, which totally makes sense to me.
Spring is coming! Recall way, way back when I mentioned those seedling intentions that we can nurture in the new moon? Cycles and symbols reappear in different incarnations over and over. Springtime is the calendar year’s new moon. It’s the time when we plant the seeds that will grow to maturity this year. Spring cleaning ring a bell?
March 21 marks the Spring Equinox (a holy day in many traditions). Even the word ‘Easter’ derives from the name of the Germanic goddess Eostre, the goddess of virginity and rebirth. This time, leading up to Easter or the beginning of Spring, is a time to prep the soil. Overcome temptations and indulgences so that the field is renewed for the next generation of seedlings to be (re)born. Align with the Divine so that our attachments no longer hold us back- allowing our Christ Consciousness to (re)emerge.
When the table is set on Easter morning, where will I sit? Will I dive back into my indulgences with aplomb? Or will they be mourned and released? And my Self? Resurrected into a new way of being…?
Best wishes to all in manifesting the highest and best version of their Self in this auspicious time of year… Check out these wonderful suggestions for observing Lent even if you are not Catholic (via BeliefNet) ♥