Lent begins with the imposition of ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday. This acknowledges sin, and signifies repentance. It is followed by a period of sacrifice in the form of fasting (eating only one main meal a day and nothing between meals) and abstainence (not eating meat on specific days and 'giving up' a favorite food or activity) as an act of ammends for purification.
During the Lenten season, each Catholic is required to perform their "Easter Duty," which is confession, penance and receiving Holy Communion.
While this may sound unappealing and inconvenient to our lower, self-indulgent nature, the process is actually one of amazing blessing. It also provides an opportunity to make significant spiritual growth.
Let's take a look at each component:
1) Imposition of ashes
Spiritually, the ashes represent error thoughts in mind; where "sin" begins. It is a physical expression of a spiritual condition. Placed, on the forehead in the form of a cross, reminds us of the origin of our sins (errors), which is mind, and that they are to be "crossed out."
Physically, fasting is a great way to detoxify our bodies. Spiritually, fasting represents unplugging from the busyness and distractions of daily life. Coming away to a place of peace where we can detoxify our minds and emotions.
Making a decision to "give up" something we like, or deny a self-indugence is an excellent way to develop the self-discipline required for Spiritual Mastery. It is also a great way to experiment with a change you have been considering making in your life. Over 35 years ago I had been pondering becoming a vegetarian. I gave up meat for Lent, and never went back.
4) Confession and Contrition
Awareness without accountability, prevents healing of the core issues that continue to impact our lives. While there may be times we have been victimized, there are more times where we are an actual participant. Example include chronic over-spending, over-eating, failure to stand up for oneself, lack of self-discipline. Once we are ready to acknowledge we are a part of the problem and willing to make necessary changes we begin to heal.
Contrition, or repentence is the shift that happens in mind; the "aha" recognition of our part in "cause." When whe change wording from "at fault" to "at cause" it is less painful to acknowledge our error and make changes. Repentance is not about judgment, it is about a shift in mind and thought. This is by penance, which is the change we make following repentance (re-thinking our errors)
5) Holy Communion
Spending an extended period of time with a spiritual focus during Lent brings us into intimate relationship with God. In the church experience this would be with the bread and wine, the "body and blood," Jesus spoke of. In our own heart and soul it is full engagement of the lessons Jesus taught (body/bread), and the emulation of the life He lived and called us to follow in (blood/wine). Simply put, it is living in alignment with the Universal Principles Jesus taught.
Holy Communion is called a Sacrament, defined in the church as "An outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace." Metaphysically interpreted, a Sacrament is something we do in the outer, that is inspired by Spirit; Christ that brings us closer to God. It is a Divine Idea in the mind of God that beckons us to come closer, to a deeply intimate relationship. It is a call to come up higher and become...not the child of God we currently are, but the fully mature Offspring and Co-Creator with our Divine Parent.
God is calling. Will you answer the call?