Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lenten stuff.

Yesterday, I did something I hadn't ever before. I went to an Ash Wednesday service at my (Episcopalian, though it's now questionable how much longer Anglican) church, heard the invitation to the observance of a holy Lent, recited the Litany of Penitence, and submitted my forehead to the imposition of ashes, gently applied by our Assistant to the Rector, The Rev. Sonia Waters, as she softly reminded me, "Dust you are, and to dust you shall return."

I have no issue with that statement; it's the question of resurrection and afterlife, among others, that I find a challenge. For some time, I've been a practicing, though not necessarily a believing, Christian. I did get a grin from our Rector, the Rev. Stephen Muncie, at a dinner some weeks ago when he said he was tired of hearing people say, "I'm not religious, but I am very spiritual", and I replied, "I'm just the opposite." His smile didn't fade when I went on to say that I'd never had a "spiritual" experience, and that I had serious issues with what most Christians consider essential beliefs. It broadened a bit when I said I got great satisfaction from practicing "religion"; that is, from participation in liturgy and in the life of the church community. He did wince when I said that I entertained the idea that there is no transcendent God, but simply a human construct that has taken on a life of its own and become essential.

I have decided, this year, to take my commitment to practice to the extent of undertaking a Lenten discipline. Traditionally, this is seen as giving something up; usually meat and alcohol (more recently, just the latter). I'm abstaining from ardent spirits (but not from wine or beer with meals, both of which I consider food) and the ice cream bars that I usually have with a snifter or two of Cognac after dinner, often as I work on this blog. This is likely to improve my waistline; it may even improve the quality of my posting. Whether it will improve me in other ways is questionable. But, as Steve said in his Ash Wednesday homily, Lent isn't primarily about abstemiousness, it's about concentration on essentials.

In that respect, I hope I can use this time of reflection to become more thoughtful about my work, my relationships, and, yes, even my blogging. We'll see.


switters said...

'Sup, C-Scale!

As a baptized and confirmed Lutheran, I miss the liturgy, and the hymns, and the Eucharist, and the wine. We're certainly not as "high" as the mackerel snappers or the church-that-was-founded-so-a-king-could-get-a-divorce folks, but the liturgy has just enough structure, rhythm and cadence to lend it at least some modicum of spiritual therapy.

I hate people who are "spiritual". Okay, "hate" is too strong a word. I'll go with loathe.

I'm giving up sex for lent. Seeing as how I'm not really having much of it anyway, I think it's a good match.

I like the blog. Don't know why I haven't said anything to you before about it; carelessness, I suppose.

Peace out.

Claude Scales said...

Thanks, switters.

Perhaps the closest I've come to a "spiritual" experience was when I attended an all-Bach Advent mass at a big Lutheran church on Central Park West.

Good luck with your Lenten discipline. Well, on second thought, bad luck with carrying it out.

Schadenfreude said...

I gave up Christianity for Lent.

rundeep said...

Hi Claude. I view the most important lesson of religion to be about community. So a few years ago I started going back to church. And I do find a certain peace there, though like you I have quite a few doubts about many of the aspects of the business.

Back when I was not so observant, my nominally Jewish but actually atheist husband asked what I was giving up for Lent. Peeved, I replied, "Sex with strangers." His immediate answer: "Oh, I wouldn't give that up." Go figure.