As we invite the Graces to bring their gifts of Radiance and Bliss into our lives, we might want to make room to receive them. During this time of late Winter, it is a time-honored tradition to prepare for the upsurge of Spring through rites of cleansing and purification. One traditional method is the practice of sacred fasting.
As you know, Mardis Gras, or Carnival as it is also called, was celebrated earlier this week. Its very name, Carnival, comes from carne (meat) and vale (farewell), because many Christian traditions give up eating meat for their holy season of Lent. During Carnival and Mardi Gras (literally, Fat Tuesday), people prepare for the deprivations of the Lenten season, by fattening up on meat, sweets, and other indulgences. Wild parties, parades, and merry-making are also a part of the festivities, in contrast to the somber, sober days to come.
Waverly FitzGerald writes, “The emphasis on giving up a rich or luxurious food item has deep historical roots…If you think about what’s going on in the natural world, these food deprivations make sense.
“This part of early spring is the most hazardous time of the year for people living close to the earth. The first bitter greens (so prominent a part of spring equinox feasts like Passover and Easter) are just emerging. Fresh eggs, also associated with these feasts, are not yet available; birds are just beginning to nest. The foodstuffs, particularly the salted and smoked meat, that were stored to carry the family through the winter may be giving out. The potatoes and apples left in the cellar are getting soft and of dubious quality.
“The deprivation of Lent may not be voluntary but a necessity imposed by nature. As Caroline Walker Bynum points out in Holy Feast and Holy Fast, ‘Fasting is in rhythm with the seasons, scarcity followed by abundance.’ By choosing lack, people believed they could induce God to send plenty: rain, harvest and life. As Gregory the Great said, ‘To fast is to offer God a tithe of the year.’”
But of course, fasting and sacred renunciation are not exclusive to Christianity.
More ideas about this tomorrow!