Ash Wednesday was celebrated this past Wednesday, marking the start of Lent. Which means that way back when, when Jesus was wandering through the desert, being harassed nonstop by the devil, trying to come to grips with the fact he was soon to die a torturous and painful sinner's death, and praying instead of eating and drinking, He was setting yet another example of a practice that we Christians, Catholics, Orthodox's, and the likes would continue to follow hundreds of years later.
This year's lent season will come to an end on Thursday, April 2nd for Catholics, and Saturday, April 4th for Christians. Which means that for the next 40-42 days, we'll all, depending on what we've decided to give up, be losing weight, trying to stop swearing, less drunk, promiscuous, and/or stressed/socially connected via media than in the days that came before these. I know that each religion observes Lent in a different way, but the basis of the fast is meant to have the same meaning for us all.
It's a time when we are supposed to try and fast from things that have got a firm grip on us. The point of doing this, is to choose something that we often yearn for, something that we love -- sweets, coffee, alcohol, smoking, swearing, tea, meat, social media, etc -- so that when the hunger strikes (no pun intended), we turn to God in prayer, instead of to whatever it is we want. It's a way for us to submit to the Lord, and try to increase our dependence on Him, deepen our relationship with Him, and overcome, if only for the Lent period, our human thirsts.
What people fast from varies, but with a little research, I learned that the Top Five Fasting Favorites of this season would be as follows (in no particular order):
- Fast Food
- Social Media
Not such a surprise, right?
For as long as I can remember, I've given up sweets for lent, and this year is no different. I often find myself wandering into the pastry shop without even wanting to, and eating unhealthy sweets simply because I think it's what I should do after a meal, a hard class, or anything strenuous that might warrant a sweet treat as a reward. So for me, Lent is a great, Godly excuse not to eat sweets, and to get a little healthier. However, I realized that I wanted to give up sweets and was kind of using Lent as an excuse to do it, which doesn't really make it purposeful or a sacrifice. I knew I needed to amp it up a little bit, because it's not really a sacrifice if you want to do it, and that's not the point of the practice. That said, this year on top of sweets, which I indulged in pretty much daily, I am fasting from something I'm even scared to proclaim/make this official:
I have at least two coffees/espressos a day, and would consider going and sitting in the sun to have a coffee one of my favorite past times/one of the activities that gets me out of the house the most next to work, so this one, this one is a real, real fast for me. A really annoying one already, and it's only been a few days. I don't even see a reason to leave the house on days I don't have work or social plans, because while sitting in the sun is always nice, it's a whole lot nicer with a coffee in hand. There's just something about reading a book, coloring, writing, or studying AND drinking a coffee. (Which is probably why it's nearly 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon and I haven't even changed out of my pajamas yet. Yes, my pity party has begun.) And considering the fact it's my birthday on Thursday, and I'll be in Italy for five and a half days starting on Friday, in Napoli nonetheless, the birthplace of gelato, without the ability to drink coffee or eat sweets, this is a proper fast. Nor will I be able to try the coffee or sweets in Bratislava, Slovakia, Vienna, Austria, or Budapest, Hungary whilst I travel around these cities/countries during the Easter break next month!
My gosh, as soon as I realized all this, I immediately wanted to take it all back and give up something else. I almost started pleading with God to just excuse me this lent season, and promise I'd make it up in the next one(s). But, that's not how it works, and the fact I wanted to take it back right after I'd uttered it, is a good sign. This is the right track. If it's going to be this hard, it's going to be that good, and pay off that much more. (Pray for me please, I am so sad I won't be able to indulge in endless tiny, Italian coffees all day, or eat tiramisu and gelato for breakfast to say "Happy Birthday to Me!")
That said, yesterday I came upon an article about what Pope Francis is saying about lent, and it made me reconsider everything. (No, not to the point where I decided I could just not fast from sweets and coffee, even though that's kind of what he was saying, and trust me, I tried to make a case for it to God. In the end, I decided I'd rather just be obedient for a change.) This article on Time.com puts it nicely,
According to Francis, fasting must never become superficial. He often quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom who said: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”
I found this to be really interesting and wonderful, and wanted to make sure I shared it with you all. It's such a true thought, "No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others," so while fasting and getting healthier will make me happier overall, in turn benefiting those around me (joy spreads), since they aren't the intention of these selected fasts, there needs to be more.
The last months have been quite difficult for me at my assistant job. I am very tired of being surrounded by people who aren't interested in what's going on, and are quite judgmental, critical, and self-centered. (Also of feeling like I'm dedicating the majority of my time and energy to a purpose that's not passion-driven or wanted by either end.) I know this is normal for teens and preteens, but it's exhausting to look into death glares all day every day and be on the receiving end of such disrespect, especially when my nature is to love and nurture. But now, I'm in my last three months with these students, and I want to leave knowing that we've had a good time together. I don't want to leave, think back, and say, "Well, it was an experience, but one I could have lived without." Nor do I want to leave, and have them there thinking, "Thank goodness she's gone, she was such a worthless ____!" No, I never want that to be the case in any interaction.
So, to try and combat this possibility, I am also taking up for Lent, a fast from any negative thought or word against these couple groups we've got that are particularly difficult. I know that thought can overcome all and create a new world before our eyes, so I'm going to practice it with all I've got the next 42 days, and just see what happens in the class and around the school! They're not bad kids, and everyone needs love, so they are being taken under as part of my new little "experiment". Let's see what happens!
What are you going to fast from?
Have you set some lent intentions?
Will they benefit others and not just yourself? Let me know!
I hope you're receiving all the healing vibes I'm sending your way, and have an amazing Sunday, filled with Love and Light! Absorb all the goodness in the Earth, and release all that doesn't serve you. Life isn't meant to be spent feeling badly, so live it up, and love all the way through!
Blessings, Love & Light
PS. I logged back into Instagram today (a_fedorio)! Two weeks had passed without it, and I've gotta say, I did really miss it. But I'll post about that separately, and be back on Facebook on Tuesday or Wednesday!