Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Need of Self Denial

I have always been somewhat curious about the observance of Lent .  A time in the Catholic Church that runs from Ash Wednesday thru Easter.  The traditional purpose of  Lent is the preperation of the believer - through prayer, penitence, giving, and sacrifice or self denial. 

It is the area of sacrifice / self denial that I find so fascinating.  I have several friends and family who practice the Catholic religion, in fact Vincent is Catholic and each year as Lent comes around I hear the list of things that they decide to ban from their lives for the next aproximately 40 days.  Usually the list consists of soft drinks, certain rich and/or fatty foods,  and so on.  I worked with a woman once who each year made it a point to announce to everyone the approachement of Lent as well as the list of items she would be denying herself that year.  For forty days we would endure her daily lamenting of her trials and how hard they were yet how uplifting they were.  I will admit that in many cases I do not mind such things too much especially when it truly is a difficult walk. Although I would respect them more if they took their journey of walking on broken glass  in silence.  It is a bit more difficult to respect them let alone listen to them if their sacrifice is due to the fact that they have not had a Dr. Pepper in over a week. 

I do understand that not all people who practice this observance do so in the manner that I have described above.  I do know that there are many who truly honor its meaning and what it means to them.  Let me say also that it is not fair for me to also judge the items that one may choose to keep from themselves for this time.  I learned this lesson well last year.  My daughter, a new Catholic herself - who accepted this faith when she got married - celebrated her first Lent season last year.  One of the things she gave up was peanut butter.  Now when I first heard this I had to chuckle a bit as I thought it a bit silly until I talked with her just prior to Easter.  It truly was a sacrifice for her to keep this from herself as she is a peanut butter freak.  Although I think there are better areas that one can self deny themselves, for her this seemed to work its purpose.

I myself have always been one that if I choose to observe Lent, I would be hard on myself.  I feel that self denial and sacrifice have a wonderful way of making you look at the real picture by getting the clutter out of the way.  In older times fasting and abstinence were common items that were practiced at Lent.  I know many who still practice fasting today at this time, yet far from the extreme of earlier times. Fasting has always interested me and when I have observed it, I have found it to be an extremely cleansing time and also one of enlightenment.  As for abstinence, I am not sure  how widely this is practiced.  Yet I can see the benefit of its exclusion from ones life for a period of time as well.   

It is the absence of any of these things that gives one more time to reflect and think on themselves and also to question the importance they may be giving to such areas of their lives.  It clears things from our current lifestyle and daily routine.  I will admit I am not genius when it comes to the theology of the Catholic religion and thus this is based all on my opinions and also my readings, as well as observance of the many Catholics I know.  Yet I think it is much like anyone who wishes to seek out answers to questions they may have.  It is a means to seek enlightenment for the path we choose to take. 

Vincent is once again observing Lent this season.  I find it helpful and supportive to participate in it also, yet I refuse to call it Lent.  I feel that if I have items or areas in my life that need such drastic work that I need to deny them from myself that I need to  honestly ask myself if they need to be removed all together... And thus this is what I intend to do... I liken it much to awaiting the arrival of Spring, which is a time of new beginnings and new growth.  (much what Easter also represents)  Once again, we see the practices of old times (Imbolc, Beltane and so on) being manifested into a holiday  or practice that man can control in some sense.  Yet that is a soap box all of its own. 

In closing I think that we could all learn from this practice.  As isn't it what we do ourselves each year as the wheel turns and we recognize the changing of the seasons and the coming of spring.  Looking for the warmth to return to the earth and the new sprouts to shoot out of the fertile soil.  Shouldn't we likewise look at ourselves and ask if there are any areas that we should deny or attune ourselves to in order to prepare for this time.  Whatever you choose... blessings to you and may you find the answers you seek. 


Not Hannah said...

Interesting points to ponder. I'll be thinking about this today, lady...

mxtodis123 said...

Great post today. I love your ideas. I've got some things I have to work on...that's for sure.

luna said...

Back in my Christian days I gave up chocolate. It was tough, too. But personally I do not think self denial is going to make you a better Christian, just a cranky one. And, too if you have to brag about it, well, that sort of negates the purpose. Shouldn't it be between you & your deity? I also tried to give up wine once, too. See I said "tried?" It was a disaster covered in molasses! harhar!
love from luna

Rue said...

I tried Lent once. Didn't work so well for me. I'm an instant gratification kind of girl. Which is perhaps why I wanted to try it. But I am hard enough on myself without being forced to give things up and then reflect on it. I sometimes take too much time to reflect.

I do see it's merit for people who aren't so self-critical already. And I do always enjoy symbolism. I suppose that although I find religious traditions beautiful, I don't always see how they will work with what I believe.

I would love to hear more on how Lent actually works for people. I do wish you and Vincent a wonderful 40 days and hope that if offers much insight and growth for you!

Domestic Witch said...

Well said Mother Moon!

Lyon said...

Thank you for this discussion. I'm fascinated by the practice of Lent in many ways, but have never really been drawn to observe it myself, but then again, I've never had any one close to me who did either. I think you're right in that some people don't necessarily approach it with the right spirit and therefore miss the point. (I have known the dr. pepper whiners too! lol) But indeed, that doesn't mean that there aren't people genuine in their seeking of the Lent journey either.

As a Pagan, I don't get the whole sin aspect to Lent, but that's okay. I don't have to because it's not for me and I can honor the practices of others. But I do absolutely see the value in sacrificing something to show devotion to the Gods. Piety is (or should be in some ways) universal in one way or another to the spiritual seeker of any ilk. So I can definitely identify.

Fascinating post, Mama!

Dede said...

"Shouldn't we likewise look at ourselves and ask if there are any areas that we should deny or attune ourselves to in order to prepare for this time."

I so agree, so well said. There are things that I definitely need to work on or change.

Wonderful post!


Iris said...

I knew a few "good" Christians that wouldn't complain about it at all. They would wear ash upon their foreheads and would only tell us what they had given up if asked. Although I have heard some others who complain the whole time, like they are some sort of martyr. I guess I understand it a little better now and can support them in their beliefs, but I always hated it. I hated that they felt like we all should give up something too, even though it was never my religion to do so.

Again, good thoughts for us all to ponder.

[For those of you who have "lost" my blog, the address has changed slightly. Please view my button on MMM's sidebar, or click my profile. Thanks for your patience!]

Bridgett said...

Like Lyon, I've never really been drawn to observe Lent either.

After having children, I feel like I give up and sacrifice every single day of the year. LOL

Nevertheless, I respect the tradition and those who practice it...