Ash Wednesday, Normal Wednesday or Haunted Wednesday?
Dear old and new friends,
If you are a monk, woman religious or one who faithfully attends church that’s an easy question to answer! It’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning Lent’s forty days—a day to fast, pray and abstain from meat as you’ve done in the past.
If you are not religious, today is just an ordinary Wednesday.
However, if you belong to the majority (the two-thirds) who no longer regularly attend church, today can easily be a “haunted” Wednesday. The very name arouses purple ghostly memories of former days of penances and self-denial. These ghosts of guilt can trouble your conscience about what you should be doing today and in the coming forty days. Yet know that to attempt to go back today into the Lent of former days will be easier said than done! Institutional religions are evaporating before our eyes. In our culture, one rarely hears of God or prayer mentioned in daily speech. So be prepared to engage in a spiritual work in a non-religious social environment. In such a situation, if you desire to do something spiritual this Lent, consider becoming a Lenten God spy!
Go about your ordinary life as a secret agent living in some antireligious dictatorship that forbids any expression of religion. Indeed this would require creativity, but a suggestion for a clandestine, secret ritual comes from the Prophet Mohammed. The Prophet says God is closer than the vein in your neck. So consider the following as your Lenten practice: Place your first and second fingers on your throat's jugular vein and linger there as you feel the vigorous throbbing of life within you. This is a sensual affirmation that God, better named “Life,” is not distant or remote but is pulsating within you and asks the silent question, “What is your response to this mystic presence?” Your response to this question could be your Lenten activity. This simple touching of your jugular vein could simply in itself, if performed several times devoutly each day, be your Lenten work.
This simple, silent, sensual touch can also profoundly awaken you to Life’s perpetual attention to you and your needs that naturally invites you to deep loving gratitude.
Use it whenever you are in need of God's presence, whenever you feel yourself sinking ever deeper in the quicksand of an argument or trapped in a no-win discussion, or in any difficult encounter. Use it in the crowded shopping mall, at your desk and driving home from work. Prayer rituals and postures we know greatly influence the mind and heart. As one of God's secret agents you need not drop to your knees or piously fold your hands to pray.
Simply placing your two fingers on your jugular vein you can secretly and silently be in communion with your beloved God throbbing at your fingertips.