As those of you who are Christian are probably profoundly aware, Lent began this week. As always, I'm fascinated by the ways in which being part of the religious blogosphere offers me a chance to peek at the religious practices of others, and I'm already enjoying some of the Lenten blog posts that are rolling across my aggregator. For instance, Ash Wednesday Lavendar by RJ:
Ash Wednesday – and really all of Lent – is a journey more than a destination – a way of discerning and searching for the holy in the ordinary events of our human lives – and as you know if you have ever travelled, some journeys are wonderful and rich, some are messed up and filled with trouble, and some never get off the ground[.]
I'm also intrigued by Father Chris' post Washing off the ashes? He takes a fascinating look at the question of religious visibility on Ash Wednesday, and I think he's identified an important tension between following traditional precepts because there's value in doing so, and resisting the temptation to allow one's enactment of those precepts to feed the ego.
I see parallels between the 40-day Lenten period (symbolic of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert) and the 40-day period Jews observe between the beginning of the month of Elul and Yom Kippur. I've written before about how the number 40, in the rabbinic imagination, represents the period from something's inception (or conception) to fruition. With that in mind, I see these 40-day journeys as chances to mindfully inhabit the work of teshuvah, turning-toward-God, that's so foundational to religious life.
One of the things that's always moved me is the practice of refraining from offering alleluias in church during Lent. Once, several years ago, I went with a friend to Easter services (that's a story I should tell here, one of these days) and was blown away by the joy I perceived in those Easter alleluias, I imagine because the community had been fasting from praise for so long. I can't imagine going forty days without offering praise; I find it tough enough to eschew praise on the single day of Tisha b'Av! But the idea has stuck with me.
To my readers and friends who are entering into Lent, I wish you a journey that brings you where you need to go. (If you're blogging about it, let me know where.) May the rest of us be respectful witnesses to your travels.