Lent begins today. With none of the fanfare of Christmas, or the revelry of Mardi Gras, this is the Christian season of sacrifice, a time of introspection when we prepare for Christ’s coming sacrifice at the Crucifixion. Giving up something is a symbolic way of remembering what was ahead of Jesus and forcing us out of our everyday First World Problems.
In the past I’ve given up anger, buying new clothes, soda, tortilla chips – you get the idea. Every time I reach for one of those indulgences, I contemplate what it would be like to be really tested.
This year I’m trying positive reinforcement. Instead of not doing something, I’m making a commitment to speak out against injustice, misrepresentation and hate.
The Ted Talk by Clint Smith was my inspiration.
And this incredible anti-Muslim graphic, which popped up on my Twitter feed, is what I’m speaking out against today. The Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades were officially sanctioned acts of war by both Church and State. Where are those acts (or their leaders) represented on this graph? In what way are the actions of Mohammed ‘counted’ as violent acts to accumulate in such a tally? Pseudo-science like this fuel harmful misconceptions.
Ash Wednesday is the moment in the church liturgical calendar when we pause as a community to remember Jesus’ temptation by the devil. Taken into the desert and offered all that the human heart could desire, Jesus said no. He prayed, he fasted, he suffered.
Not the stuff of headlines in today’s glitzy, glamorous society, particularly on the heels of the Oscars.
The day begins the season of Lent: 40 days of contemplation of this self-sacrifice in preparation for Easter. In this period many give up something as a way to experience the spirit of the season. Your craving for it is a reminder of the ways we can discipline ourselves (the anticipation of Lent is what created Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras).
More modern interpretations include beginning a new, positive habit during Lent as a spiritual practice. In 2008 I tried a mashup and focused on eliminating a bad habit: anger.
Ashes symbolize many things: the dust humans are made from, the dust we will return to. They’re often used to mark the forehead of those who attend this special service as a visual reminder of the impermanence of life.
Whether or not you are a Christian or belong to a denominate that observes Lent, this season, think about joining in either by abstaining or beginning anew.
For me, I will try the impossible: put something above my love of the carbonated beverage that is Coke. Even writing that sentence has me missing the feel of bubbles on my tongue.
But if it weren’t precious, would it be a sacrifice?