Blessed Ash Wednesday everyone! Having spent the last three weeks focusing on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our commemorations, today marks the beginning of a Lent. For Gnostics this marks a period of purification, introspection, and self-examination. Beginning 40 days before Easter Sunday, we spend the days of this season examining ourselves and our lives, burning off the dross matter, and preparing for the resurrection of the Divine Light at Easter. Forty days, of course, has significance in the mythic story of Jesus Christ, who spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness before commencing His public ministry, and spent 40 hours in the tomb before His glorious resurrection.
Traditionally, this is one of the penitential seasons (the other being Advent), and has been associated with fasting, abstinence, prayer, penance, and “giving up” something for Lent. These practices, though often not very appealing to Gnostics, can be beneficial. In choosing to limit ourselves, exercising the will over the body, we can begin to remember that this physical body is only temporary and focus on our true spiritual nature. As we are reminded when we receive the blessed ashes on our foreheads: “Remember, O soul, that thy body is dust; and unto dust it shall return.”
If we should choose to give up something for Lent, it’s wise to begin by examining things in our lives that draw our attention away from our true nature as sons and daughters of God, and that spark of Divine Light we all possess: the indwelling Christ. Many people give up sweets or caffeine, and if these things are actually drawing you away from God, then go for it! But if we dig deeper, we may find that the true cause of our separation are things like anger, desire, laziness. When we’ve figured out the cause, we can then figure out what to do about it — it may not involve giving something up at all, but rather taking on a practice. We may choose to add to our regular devotional practices, or even begin a new one if we’ve found ourselves making excuses for finding time for prayer. Whatever we choose to give up or take on during Lent should be based on careful self-examination, so that when the 40 days are over, we find ourselves in a better position than we were before: closer to God, and closer to our neighbors and loved ones.
It’s my prayer that this Lenten season will be a time of powerful transformation for you all, as I hope it will be for myself. Pax vobiscum!