Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Giving up + taking on = shifting something

As a Quaker, I miss the liturgical calendar of the Catholicism of my youth. To everything there really is a season, including the third snow of the week just outside my window. Lent, which begins today, is a big deal for many Christians, especially Catholics. When I was little, we got little Lenten cans in which to save the money for the candy, or anything else, we gave up. The money went for missions. It was unfortunate spiritual pride that made me want to fill up my can: I gave up big time. Today I understand spiritual discipline, paradoxically enough, through my practice of Buddhist meditation and watching my awareness. Today I am highly aware of how difficult it is to work without a cup of coffee, since I am fasting. In doing some research on Lenten disciplines, I came across the idea that if Lent is about self-examination and self-discipline, one could also take on a practice instead of merely giving something up. I'm adding sacred poetry to my Lenten reading: The Soul is Here for its Own Joy edited by Robert Bly (doesn't sound very sacrificial, does it?) and (in a more orthodox vein) The Poetry of Piety edited by Ben Witherington and Christopher Mead Armitage, which really ought to have had T.S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday:

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual for only one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are ...

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