It’s spring! This year, spring’s promise of abundance coincides with fasting traditions found in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As we approach Easter on April 4, we are nearing the end of Lent. Many Christians observe Lent by giving something up for the forty days that span Ash Wednesday to Easter – not a traditional fast in that it’s not always food or drink, but it is a practice reminiscent of fasting. It’s also time for Passover, from March 27 through April 4. During Passover, many observant Jews will abstain from hametz, or fermented wheat and other grains; thus, they forgo any kind of leavened bread for eight days, along with other products that are not kosher for Passover. Ramadan 2021 will be from April 13 through May 12. Many Muslims avoid any food or drink every day from sunrise to sundown for the month of Ramadan.
In each of these traditions, fasting can bring the observer closer to that which is meaningful and important: closer to the experiences of the ancestors, closer to practices of faith, closer to God. I wonder, have you ever observed some kind of fast, have you ever given up something that you normally enjoy or count on? What was that experience like for you?
I was thinking about this whole pandemic year as a kind of fast. We have given up so much: gathering in person, school and work, hugging and handshaking, the bottom half of our faces. Our deprivation has been frustrating and exhausting, forced upon us by a terrible new virus. It has also been an expression of our faith in science and humanity, our love and care for our families and communities. And has it brought us closer to something meaningful or important?
Just the other day I visited with a dear friend who recently moved to the Midwest. He was in town for just a few days and I was not yet fully vaccinated, so our visit consisted of a brisk, masked walk around the pond. We did not hug or share a meal, and we only had about an hour to hang out. I was glowing with joy at the end of our brief time together, and I felt grateful to have shared his company and conversation. It occurred to me that before COVID I would have been annoyed and unsatisfied by such a cursory visit, I would have fretted and wished for more.
It’s a lesson I’ve stumbled across over and over again during this time of pandemic-induced limitation. We can be present in this moment, and this moment, and also this moment. And we can feel gratitude for what we do have in this moment. And this moment. Also this one. What are your COVID lessons? What will you bring with you from this prolonged fast into the post-pandemic world? I look forward to being with you on the journey.
Zoom Chats with Rev. Jolie Every Thursday at 10 AM
Drop in and say hi, connect with one another and your minister. Time permitting and as the spirit moves us, we will reflect on a prompt together.