Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hunger Pains


"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." -Ecclesiastes 3

 
When I first learned about Ramadan a few years ago, the holy month fell in November. I imagine it’s easier to be Muslim when Ramadan is in the short days of November than when it is in July with 14 hours of daylight. In any case, I’d admire the concept of Ramadan, even if I have issues with the theology. It’s kinda like Lent, only more hardcore, and you don’t get the glory of Easter after.

I admire the observation of the cosmos, following a religious lunar calendar and using sunrise and sunset to determine the perimeters of the fast. With technology it’s too easy to ignore to the calendars and clocks nature as already given us, a rhythm beyond the counting systems we’ve devised.

I admire the focus on community. Breaking the daily fast together shows that penance can be communal and the burdens of suffering lightened when shared. All in this together. Anyone can take some needed time to fast and pray when their spiritual needs demand it, but there is something about going through it as a community that has different benefits.

And of course, I admire the fasting itself, the forgoing indulgences and counting blessings. Fasting is a way to strip down, remove the distractions, and hone attention to God.

One thing I believe appears in every religion is the need of confession and purification, the desire to break bad habits and signal a fresh start. Expressed in vastly different ways, the desire is still the same. We reach out for some better version of ourselves. 

I think my admiration of Ramadan is really a twinge of jealously. Christianity has its times of penance, but so many Christians simply overlook it, thinking them unnecessary liturgies. (I’ve met many Christians who don’t even know what Advent and Lent are, much less what they mean.) They don’t know what they’re missing. And since Ramadan has started at the same time that my annual “ready for Christmas in summer” feeling as set in, I look at the Muslims celebrating their most holy month and think that Ordinary time is feeling, well, ordinary (I know it's not!). I’m ready for Advent and Lent, a time that requires an extra step, a time that says, “You can, and shall, do more.”

[P.S. I have had "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" stuck in my head all day.]

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