By Rachel Stacy
The ritual of Lent usually involves the individual giving up something until the Easter celebration. Often I hear about people giving up chocolate, sugar, fast-food, or smoking. Occasionally the more rebellious Lent-followers declare that instead of giving something up they will take something on, like running, serving the poor, or writing a blog entry every day.
Giving something up for Lent is similar to fasting during Ramadan. The purpose is to suffer a small amount, remember others who have no choice in their suffering, and grow closer to a beautiful faith that relieves our suffering.
When I practiced/celebrated Ramadan with my friends in college, I found I deeply cherished our times of fellowship, particularly in the early morning. Our small suffering helped us appreciate the simple gifts of life: our food, our love for one another, and our faith.
The year my friends and I participated in Ramadan was also the year that Yom Kippur fell at the end of the season. Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and non-religious students all broke fast in celebration of a new year together. In our fellowship we remembered those whose suffering was not optional and prayed together for those people’s relief. During this time together, each of us was pushed to articulate our own faith. In the listening to others, I was challenged to live more fully into my own beliefs. In the sharing of my own stories I grew stronger as a Quaker.
Try to give something up for a day. Every time you feel a craving for it, say a prayer for or hold in the light those who must abstain from these things without choice. Let your own small suffering be a trigger to spread compassion throughout the world. Then when you break your fast, give thanks for having the choice to give this thing up, the choice to suffer small things and the opportunity to draw closer to God.
Early this morning, Japan experienced a massive earthquake and tsunami. Since the beginning of 2011 many different natural disasters have devastated the earth. One of the rationales for fasting is to help us to feel more empathy for those who are poor, or who have suffered loss during times of natural disaster or war.
During this time of optional sacrifice and suffering may we offer our heart-felt prayers for those suffering the extreme and unexpected losses as a result of these events.
Follow Rachels as she blogs her way through Jordan March 11-19
Rachel Stacy will be traveling to Jordan to participate in the Associated Church Press tour March 11–19. Follow her here on the Friends Journal website as she blogs about her trip.
Rachel Stacy is a practitioner and scholar of peace-building, alternatives to violence programs, inter-religious dialogue, and community development. She has written and presented on these topics to a variety of audiences around the world. Rachel holds a Teaching degree from Towson University and a Religious Studies degree with an emphasis in peace and justice from the Earlham School of Religion. Throughout her work, Rachel has developed a passion for educating others about the people, culture, and peace-building efforts of the Middle East. As her experience in the region deepens, Rachel hopes to continue to facilitate the sharing of ideas, inspiration, and hope.