Lenten Fasts   Leave a comment

The season of Lent is a season of sacrifice, formation, and renewal. Lenten sacrifices get a bad rap, in my opinion. It seems that it is popular for people to give up things like chocolate, wine, desserts, smoking, etc. with no intention to use this period of sacrifice to bring about personal renewal. Without a purpose, what good is sacrifice? Sacrifice for the purpose of sacrifice seems rather pointless. But last year I had the realization that those very same sacrifices, even if made only for the 40 days, can be part of a very positive spiritual experience even if they are not meant to be permanent sacrifices. It is interesting that the sacrifices that have become synonymous with Lent in popular culture are actually not explicitly a part of Catholic dogma. Catholics are called to fasting, and that fasting can include many things. For years I have been distracted by the need to come up with something to sacrifice during Lent, and as a result completely missed the point and ended up sacrificing nothing, really. This year is different. Granted, I’m not on a good start since the first week fell flat, but this is a work in progress.

By fasting instead of sacrificing, I can make a connection beyond myself, and not just stay caught up in myself. Fasting helps to reduce the distractions that keep us from truly connecting with ourselves and our spiritual nature, and provides a means for solidarity with the majority of the world that have less than ourselves.

Food related fasting has been a challenge, since I live and eat with someone who has no desire/intention to join me in the fasting. Note that I’m talking Catholic-style fasting here, which means limiting food to three simple meals on fasting days. The idea of fasting in solidarity with the third world has long held appeal to me, and has usually meant that we eat a lot of rice and beans, or just cobbled together vegetable dinners during Lent (and the rest of the year as well, really). I really need to formalize it, and I love the CRS idea this year of making a meal each week that is representative of a typical meal for a poor family in a third world country. Maybe that way I can have my sacrifice and solidarity, and my husband can avoid any fasting or abstinence, all in the same meal! Of course, I missed the first Friday, and I’ll be out of town spending time with my aunt and grandma for the second Friday so this won’t start until week 3.

In addition to attempting to do solidarity meals, I am fasting from television this year, meaning no TV on Fridays and less TV the rest of the week. The purpose is not actually to watch less TV, but to remove that distraction that keeps me from truly connecting with my own life, self, and loves. My hope is that by reducing that artificial stimulation, I can better be stimulated by the things that I really love like my mind, my husband, good food, beautiful plants, etc. With the exception of the 1 and a half TV shows that I actually enjoy watching (I miss more CSI episodes than I watch, due to choir, so it only partially counts), when the TV is on I have to admit it is usually just making my head spin and not really adding much value to my life.

 

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Posted March 13, 2011 by mayakey in spiritual practices

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