Rev. Rich Lang
For Christians, Lent isn’t a time of denial, but an opportunity for spring cleaning of the soul
Every spiritual tradition sets aside time for self-examination. The journey within one’s own consciousness is as expansive as any journey to the furthest reaches of space. For Christians that journey deepens with the giving of ashes on March 5.
On that day throughout the city, you’ll see folks walking around with ashy smudge marks on their forehead. It is a Christian symbol of death that reminds the believer that true life — infinite life, expansive life, the life of an evolved consciousness — is a life lived in solidarity with a God, who is all in all. The God of which I speak is the experience of love and compassion, of benevolence and grace, of kindness and mercy, of liberating power from negative addictions, of freedom from oppression. This God is a universal experience that cannot be bound by particular religion or philosophy. Christianity itself is merely a finger pointing toward the moon — but it is not the moon.
Throughout the city various churches will celebrate the ancient rite called Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of a 40-day season of deep inward searching. It’s a bit like spring cleaning. One goes down into the dark, musky basement to clear out the clutter and to remove the cobwebs.
One examines the motives, attitudes, intentions and behaviors of one’s life. It is a season of prayer when the believer attempts to make contact with a higher consciousness for the purpose of evolving, turning from that which does not give life, even as we turn towards the light that promises a new life of meaning and compassionate affection for all.
Christians call this season Lent. It is a time when we remove stuff from our lives so that we can make room for novelty and surprise. Many Christians fast from food, using the time for prayer and using the money saved as offerings of reconciliation with the poor. Lent is also a time to re-read sacred stories and to seek out the counsel of wise elders. It is a solemn holy time in which the believer seeks to move into greater maturity, into a deeper identification with the historical Jesus who was known to be a healer, a friend of the poor and the one who forgives and not condemns.
As a pastor I’ll be dispensing ashes, too. I’ll be smudging the foreheads of saints and sinners together in this ancient rite of humility and truth.
And with every smudge I will be reminded that I, too, must change. I, too, am in need of that higher consciousness that knows that death is necessary for life to evolve. Although scary, most of all, it is a season of joy because here in this rite, and through these 40 days, we make contact with the source of our desire to be together with God as all in all.
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