When I was growing up in the Episcopal Church, Lent was always a big deal. I remember we would always give up something that we enjoyed during this time (self denial). For some it was chocolate. For others it was television. Then on Sundays, known as feast days, one could enjoy that item she or he gave up. So you could have chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you so choose if that was what you gave up for Lent.
As a Unitarian Universalist, there are still things that I enjoy and have a fondness for from my Episcopalian and Catholic heritages. While I am not a fanatic about Lent and really stink at "keeping a holy Lent," I do think that there is merit and a lesson that we UUs can draw from this season as part of our Christian lineage.
Lent is a time of really doing some soul searching. It is a time to get truly connected to God in Christianity. In our UU faith, I look at Lent as a time to truly examine my connection to the Principles and Sources. Am I truly living out each of those areas? Can't think of the Principles just right off of the top of your head? Let me remind you. This is what the UUA adopted (and amended):
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:Lent reminds me that each person has value and that I need to look at each person as such - even those that I wouldn't normally associate with. Lent calls me to stand up for justice, fight oppression, and seek out compassion for others in times of chaos and strife - such as helping refugees. Lent calls me to act as a resource for others when they are seeking out their own spiritual path and also living an example of personal path - standing in my personal truth and upholding the UU faith. Lent calls me to be responsible in my free thought - in this quest for such truth and meaning as I shape my personal beliefs and uphold the beliefs of others and this organization. Lent calls me to act appropriate in my congregation, understanding order and processes have their place and also recognizing such processes are also part of social orders as well. Lent calls me to identify and give ear and heart to my global family - rejoicing in victories and standing in the gap where there is turmoil. Lent calls me to mindfulness that I can not exist by myself. I am not an island. I depend on my UU family, my biological family, my global family, plant life, animal life, and all that is contained therein.
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
For me, Lent is not necessarily a time of giving up something or repenting of sins. For the last 20 years, I have always used this as a time of adding something to my life. This year, I am focusing more on my personal, spiritual life - on bettering my understanding of my path. I want to better understand my Jewish heritage from my mother's paternal family. I want to better explore my Earth-centered leanings. I want to be more involved in UU conferences and events outside of my congregation as well as more involved in the life of my congregation (shout out to Pathways UU!).
Lent is a time of devotion, yes. My devotion this Lent is to seek out my true, spiritual nature and my deep love for the UU faith. While I should do this all year long, this is a special time in which to seek an enrichment - a time set aside unlike any other time - where I can have daily retreats journeying through the Labyrinth of Lent.
Perhaps Lent is not something that is truly examined in the UU Faith, although there are some communities who do acknowledge it. It is an opportunity, however, where we can stop and set aside a special amount of time and energy where we can explore the deeper meaning of what it means to be Unitarian Universalist, or Christian, or Pagan, or Jewish, or Muslim, or even Agnostic. It may even give an opportunity to one to learn a religion one does not know much about - perhaps a religion one might not consider joining or adhering to but one that draws interest. I personally would like to know more about Sikhism.
In this season that is usually viewed as penitential, I am encouraging those who wish to join me to draw closer to the UU Principles and Sources. Get involved in your local UU congregation. Get involved in the community. Get involved in your personal spiritual path. Do more and be more.