Lent is a special time set aside on the Christian calendar for preparation of the celebration of Easter. The dates vary each year, based on the Pascal Full moon. Once the date for Easter is set, Lent begins 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter.
From a Metaphysical, Spiritual perspective, Lent stands for a voluntary retreat from the world to prepare for our resurrection from false beliefs, error thinking, and the denial of our innate divinity. It is all about Fasting and Feasting. Both practices can bring us tremendous spiritual power.
Traditionally, people choose to “give up” something for Lent – even people who do not regularly practice a faith tradition throughout the year. It has become a popular thing to do. People give up all kinds of things for Lent — typically they choose to fast from things like chocolate, smoking, alcohol, meat (do vegetarians give up vegetables and eat meat?). But some people have found ways to use the Lenten ritual to their benefit. They chose to fast from eating salads, working late, or mowing the lawn! Or they figure out how to twist the rules … for example, they give up milk chocolate (but can eat dark chocolate); they give up television (but Netflix is okay!); they give up watching all sports other than basketball (after all, March Madness falls smack in the middle of Lent!).
We chuckle at the way people manipulate the concept of Lent — but here’s what’s important! It’s the meaning, not the ritual that is important. Rituals are wonderful, because they can bring us together as a community, and create a sense of history, connection, and depth for us. But when the ritual becomes more important than the meaning behind it, we have lost our focus.
From a spiritual perspective, there is only one kind of fasting: abstaining from error thoughts which dampen our awareness of our oneness with Spirit. The dieting we advocate during Lent is dieting from doubts, fasting from fear, abstaining for a belief that we are unworthy, and eliminating the thinking that we are sinful by nature.
So what did Jesus teach about fasting — and what does it mean for us from a metaphysical standpoint? Let’s take a look at Matt 6: 16-18.
16. “Whenever you fast,” Jesus says, “do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward. 17. But when you fast, put oil on you head and wash your face, 18. so that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
According to Jesus, fasting is not about whining, or putting ashes on your forehead, or wearing sackcloth. When you do that you are giving the wrong message. You are promoting unworthiness and suffering instead of oneness with the Christ of you.
Jesus said, “When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face…” Metaphysically, oil stands for a consciousness of love; and washing one’s face represents clarity. So Jesus is saying when you stop giving power to false beliefs and error thinking you will gain the clarity you need by bathing your thoughts in love.
We see a different version of this same discussion in Mark 2:18-22. In this account, Jesus is being challenged because He and His disciples are not fasting:
18. Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came to Jesus and said to Him, “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, but you don’t?”
They are saying –“We follow the letter of the law (that’s Pharisitical thinking) and we imitate the followers of John the Baptizer (they pride themselves in the intellectual understanding of scripture), but Your disciples don’t act like good Jews. (“You guys aren’t team players,” they might say . . .)
- “We wear ashes on our foreheads and sackcloth as proof of our repentance, but you don’t.
- “We have Facebook, Twitter, and Internet blogs to compare our sins and unworthiness, but you don’t ever post messages there.
- “We watch TV shows where people argue, fight, and wallow in their misery, and we notice you don’t.
- “We get caught up in the world of outer appearances quite frequently, and it seems you never do. So what’s up with that?”
As usual, Jesus responds with a metaphoric answer. And this must really be important to Him, because He uses not one, not two, but three metaphors to make His point!
19. Jesus says to them, “The wedding guests don’t fast while the bridegroom is with them, do they?…20. The day will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and they will fast on that day.
Jesus is pointing out that there is no need to glorify sackcloth and ashes. When you are one with Spirit (represented by the Bridegroom) you feel no need to flaunt your fasting to impress others. Instead, you raise your vibrations through prayer, meditation, affirmations, denials, and service so that the Christ in you radiates from you, blessing your life and the lives of those who touch you.
21. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; other-wise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the new wine is lost; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins and both are preserved.
Jesus says, “You don’t get it do you? You’re not fasting, you’re flaunting! You’re confusing spiritual practice with material malpractice. You’re glorifying separation and denying your divinity. You’re eating the menu instead of the meal!
As long as you focus on the literal perspective, He might go on to say, the letter of the law, and not the spirit of the law which is its true essence, you’ll continue to miss the point. You’ll miss the vitality and richness of Spirit because you are afraid to let God express as you.
Jesus is saying: If you try to force truth into a closed mind the consequences are usually disastrous. The cognitive dissonance, will be too much for the old, stale belief system. There will be so much resistance that the hoped for clarity will be lost. (represented by pouring new wine into old wineskins and the new patch sewn on an old cloak)
And that brings us to the Feast! Notice something very interesting about these two words: Fast and Feast: there is only one difference. One letter added. But what a difference that letter makes!
I have been reacquainted about how important a single letter can be, as I have been playing Words With Friends. In this game (similar to Scrabble), you can think you are out of the game – totally behind. Then you get this amazing opportunity to play only one letter – but it is a high-scoring letter – and it links between two other words to create a new word – and if you’re lucky, it’s on a square where you get triple points for the letter, and if you’re really lucky, you get triple points for the whole word – and suddenly your score zooms! What a difference one letter can make!
Well, it’s the same thing with the addition of an E in the word FAST. It changes everything! As I thought about this, I realized the E could stand for all kinds of things. For example, it could stand for Energy … because when you feast on an attitude, action, or belief, you give it energy (as opposed to denying energy to it when you fast!). Or it could stand for Enrichment, because when you feast on Truth, you are definitely enriched from a spiritual perspective. It could even stand for Excitement, because the more we feast on Spiritual Truths, the more we see Principle working in our lives – and we can’t help but get excited!
But when it came down to it, I decided that for me, the E in Feast stands for Enlightenment — because as we feast more and more on attitudes, actions, and beliefs that are spiritual in nature, we continue to move closer and closer to enlightenment: that place of absolute Oneness — NO separation between our human self and our Christ Self.
Lent is all about Fasting and Feasting ~ So this week, spend some quiet time in meditation, asking yourself what attitudes, beliefs, or actions you have that are not congruent with your spiritual growth — and decide to FAST from them. Then remember the power of adding an E ~ and feast on Enlightment!
Listen to what kinds of things can happen when we FEAST on Spiritual Truths, calling on the E of Enlightenment — (and this is compliments of Rev. Bil ~ thinking about the E):
We become engrossed with the truth. We endorse it, no matter where it leads. For the enlightened, truth is enchanting. We are enamored by it. We enjoy its centrifugal force. We feel enraptured by it. We feel enriched by the expanded perspective and enlarged view it gives us. We feel energized and enlivened.
Endowed with the knowing which springs from our heightened awareness, we constantly endeavor to remain open to new truths. Our lives are enhanced and our entire consciousness is affected by the enormity of our spiritual growth. Our enthusiasm seems limitless as we find ourselves enveloped in what can sometimes be extraordinarily endearing moments when we feel our oneness with Spirit. It is easy to encourage others, either one-on-one or en mass, because, by our very nature we engender the qualities it takes to enthuse and excite people to take action and make empowered choices to join us, as we . . . walk the spiritual path on practical feet.About the authors: In addition to their work with The Metaphysical Website, Revs. Drs. Bil and Cher Holton are co-ministers of a growing church in Durham, NC. They are prolific authors, dynamic speakers, and master facilitators. Learn more by visiting them at www.TheMetaphysicalWebsite.com