Monday, March 24, 2014

Pizza for Lent and the Nature of Sacrifice

The top items people are saying they will be giving up for Lent this year.
This weekend is big in our family. Partner's entire family comes in from all parts of the country to celebrate their collective birthdays. Literally, their collective birthdays. His birthday, his brother's birthday, his mother's birthday, and his step-father's birthday are all this week. You think it would suck to have a Christmas birthday? Try having your special day shared with everyone in your family.

So, this weekend we all went out to a local Italian(ish) restaurant, and my future sister in law refused an offer of ordering pizza. She said:

"I gave up pizza and dessert for Lent."

To which I immediately responded (come on...you knew I would), "Do you eat a lot of pizza?" 

"Not really," she said.

Then I asked what constituted dessert. (I cannot leave Well Enough alone.) Like, could she not have anything sweet after her meal? She determined that she could have fruit after her meal, because that's not dessert. I pushed it a little further.

"Could you have yogurt after your meal?" I asked.

"Yeah, because that's not dessert," she said.

"So, you could do a yogurt parfait, then?"

"Of course, because it isn't dessert."

I then asked what constituted dessert, and she gave some muddled answer that seemed to contain the word 'chocolate' several times. Again, she doesn't really eat much in the way of rich chocolate desserts. So, I asked her what seemed the obvious question at the time:

"If you don't eat any of this very often, what are you giving up?"

Her answer at first made me giggle, and then, today, I realized how honest and sobering it really was...


She said that she really liked pizza and chocolate dessert, so that's why she gave them up. And, at first, I thought silly Catholic, you no understand Lent. But, today, as I was going through a personal roller coaster of a time, I realized that she spoke a very powerful truth about the modern notion of sacrifice. 

Now, I'm not Catholic (but I'm a big fan!), and until I really started digging in to religious study the only thing I knew about Lent was that Josh Hartnett gave up sex in a movie one time. 

Seriously, what ever happened to this guy's career?
But, from what I know, to mirror Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the dessert, Catholics the world over spend the 40 days/6 weeks from Ash Wednesday until Easter in fasting, prayer, observance, and, for many, giving up of some luxury during that time. If you have a particularly cool Bishop, you might get a reprieve from your sacrifice on Fridays, but other than that...you choose something precious to you and give up using it, eating it, doing it, or otherwise utilizing it for 6 weeks. 

For a lot of people, they choose to give up meat (which is why fish dishes pop up everywhere from McDonald's to 5 star restaurants at this time). For some it's a spending thing. I've known people to give up social media for Lent or go purchase a burner phone for use during this 6 weeks so that they could give up smartphone use for that time. Basically, whatever luxury you feel ties you down the most, you give it up and learn to do without. 

It's a sacrifice. An act of self-denial. In giving up worldly possessions, worldly luxuries, you draw yourself closer to God (spelling it with a capital G because of the deity in reference). 

Then you hear about silly things like people giving up exercise for Lent or giving up Twitter for Lent (but spending a lot more time on Facebook!) and the list goes on. One questions the level of seriousness with which some of these folks are taking their alleged sacrifice. It's easy to point and laugh and say that giving up pizza, when it doesn't seem to be a person's legitimate vice, isn't real sacrifice, but then I ask you...what about your coins and rocks?

In ages past sacrifice meant to leave a fairly sizable section of your crops to the gods. It was their portion for a good harvest. People sacrificed prized animals. People have sacrificed themselves for their own cause - What's up self-immolating monks? - because the sacrifice was something very real. You felt it. These days when you're reading through books on spirit communication or interacting with spirits/deity in nature, you're told oftentimes to leave an offering to said spirit or deity. The suggested offering is, more often than not, a shiny or semi-precious stone, a coin, a piece of fruit. Something very small, something you wouldn't actually miss. 

And I wonder how seriously we're taking our own sacrifices. In this time of economic upheaval and fairly universal job insecurity, I'm not saying let's all start giving away the roof over our head, but I am equally calling in to question the notion of sacrifice as a modern concept. What does it mean to sacrifice? The very definition of sacrifice is to give up something that you want to keep in order to get something that you want or to help someone else. 

Sure, I might want to keep my pretty tumbled amethyst, but how many other pieces of amethyst do I have? How easy is it for me to obtain another? And, is my piece of amethyst that I'm leaving true recompense for the act that I am asking of the divine? Or, is it a token? Something easy to give away so that I can say I left something for the spirits. 

What are some ways YOU can sacrifice a bit more? What are some ways YOUR sacrifices have led to a deeper connection with Deity? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

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