Christians are now in the season of Lent. It begins with Ash Wednesday and 40 days later culminates in Easter. While I am not a catholic or practice a particular religion, when a holy day or season comes around I reflect on the meaning of that time.
Growing up my family never did anything special during the 40 days of Lent. We knew it was a time of sacrifice and reflection and never ‘gave up’ anything. Many around us stopped eating a favorite food or doing something they loved. They saved the money they would have spent on that and donated it to charity on Easter. I never once gave up anything during Lent though I thought about it every year, nor do I remember anyone else in my family giving up anything.
What I do remember is getting a new outfit to wear to church for the Easter morning service. I always got a new dress, shoes, sometimes a coat, purse and hat that I would wear that morning to church. We often went out to eat afterwards with my grandmother. It was a ‘special’ day for us. My sisters and I would have our pictures taken in our new Easter dresses and ‘celebrate’ the day. We got baskets full of candies and chocolate bunnies and sometimes a small gift. We got all the goods and never sacrificed a thing.
I found the following passage on the meaning of Lent by Dennis Bratcher particularly interesting.
“(Lent)… is a way to confess our total inadequacy before God, to strip ourselves bare of all pretenses to righteousness, to come before God in dust and ashes. It is a way to empty ourselves of our false pride, of our rationalizations that prevent us from seeing ourselves as needy creatures, of our external piety that blinds us to the beam in our own eyes.
(The celebration of Easter).. goes beyond the new clothes, the Spring flowers, the happy music (It)…..begins in ashes. And it journeys though darkness. It is a spiritual pilgrimage that I am convinced we must all make, one way or the other, for genuine spiritual renewal to come.”
Maybe it’s my German Lutheran background that forces me to retain my guilt about getting all the goods without any of the sacrifice. I know there are deeper truths in these seasons that were not focused on in my family to reach higher levels of spiritual awakening or consciousness and I regret that I did not seek to understand these things as I was growing up. As a family and as individuals we missed so much by living on the surface of things. Maybe we were too afraid to dig deep. Maybe we just didn’t care or know how. Now, I am intensely curious about the deeper meaning of these holy times and live the questions with as much integrity and truth as possible at this point in my awareness.
Even though the ashes from that Wednesday have been swept away I want to understand more deeply what it is to sacrifice for the good of my higher self and the world in which I live. I am ready and willing to give up what is not essential so that I can begin to see the light under and through the darkness.
By choosing to leave the outer world I so desperately cling to and go within, I trust I will find the rest of humanity. What I have always sought in the outer world I have never found. Those ‘goods’ are within. That is the great irony of life and one certainty I have. I cannot find what I need outside of me. It is only by going within, into my own darkness that I will begin to see the light. The real sacrifice is knowing that I am alone and choosing to make the journey my self. I have to enter into my own terrifying darkness alone.
Today I will work to empty my self of the pride that keeps me from seeing the truth of who I really am, needy and inadequate. I will lay bare my soul so that I can grow to see the beam of light within that has never been extinguished through all the ashes and dust. I will make the pilgrimage through this darkness that will hopefully lead to renewal and regeneration.
I ask for your support and love along the way to see me through this darkness into the light. And I will be there for you sharing the light I find as you travel through your own darkness into the light.