March 7, 2019
I fasted for the first time in a long while yesterday, Ash Wednesday. Before full-time ordained ministry I generally fasted on Ash Wednesday and then from Maundy Thursday night through Good Friday and Holy Saturday, until we began ringing bells at the Easter Vigil: “Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” OK, so I cheated just now — there aren’t really exclamation points after the Alleluias, but it always feels like it. Whether I’ve fasted or not, it’s as though I can suddenly fly after being earth-bound, a glorious and joyful moment with no equivalent, at least in my experience.
That Alleluia moment is more profound after a fast; <i>during</i> fasts, though, I often wondered why I was doing it; was it just a fussy, ritualistic practice, done for bragging rights as much as anything else? Was it <i>really</i> just a silly game, a great way to start a diet, or greediness for exalted spiritual states?
I don’t feel that way any more. Yesterday’s fast was probably the easiest I’ve ever done (I can’t say why; each fast is different); but I’m also doing a “Marie Kondo” on my possessions, and that gave the Ash Wednesday fast, oddly, a new layer of meaning. Marie Kondo is the author of <i>The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up</i>, a quirky, charming, animistic (and, Kondo claims, permanent) solution to clutter. In a nutshell, you collect every single belonging, one category at a time, pile them all up, and then handle each and every item, asking if it brings you joy. If not, it gets discarded, after thanking it for its service to you (that’s the animistic part).
Lent for me is similar. Fasting reveals my bloated spiritual, mental, and yes, even physical clutter, pertaining to food: planning, shopping, reading cookbooks, finding recipes online, cooking, eating, weighing myself, reading health or diet books and articles. I think if most people just skipped one meal and paid attention, they’d realize how much mental time they spend on food.
During Lent, I realized, I can seek out spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical “clutter,” examining my habits, thought-patterns, preoccupations, diversions, distractions, and fixations, and redirect them, doing my best to discard what doesn’t serve me or the bigger picture of my life. No judgment; just put ’em on the discard pile. I can do things that truly nourish me and bring my inner self into better coherence with God; my hope is to create space — space that I ask the divine breath to sweep clean, top to bottom.
Next: “Frannie and Me and The Jesus Prayer”