Why I Gave Up Nothing For Lent

Why I Gave Up Nothing For Lent

Adding. Not Subtracting.

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Chocolate eggs and jelly beans! Growing up, Easter meant candy. The Easter Bunny delightfully left behind a treasure of treats for my little brother and me. In recent years, however, I have come to understand the spiritual importance of the celebration and the period leading up to it.

I am Roman Catholic -- always have been and probably, always will be. As a Catholic, Lent is a meaningful season of sacrifice. It is the 40-day period before Easter, symbolizing Jesus' withdrawal and fasting in the desert for 40 days. Following Christ's example, Lent is a period of self-discipline, fasting, and reflection for each of us. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and culminates on Good Friday, the day Jesus' crucifixion is commemorated. Good Friday also begins the Triduum, three holy days leading up to Easter Sunday. Easter is the celebration of Jesus rising from the dead—a miracle on Earth.

In simpler days, making a Lenten sacrifice was about giving up something I loved—whether it was pasta or chocolate. I never really committed to it and my parents were pretty loose about rules. They just cared about whether I understood the concept of Lent and Easter and tried my best to be mindful of sacrifice. Only this year, I started a different type of Lenten tradition that has been successful, thus far. I believe my personal triumph is because I will be confirmed in my Catholic faith at the end of April, and I am growing stronger as a person because of it.

Instead of giving up something for Lent, I decided to add an activity to my weekly routine: Scripture reading and reflection writing. Just like we read for school, I am reading for my spiritual self. We learn history, life lessons, and more about ourselves from reading, interpreting, and writing. I have committed to reading a devotional almost every day and examining the corresponding Biblical passages. From there, I write. It is one-hundred percent reflection writing, but I notice myself becoming open and having clearer thoughts.

It also helps that my grandfather runs a blog called "Celebrate the Psalms." On this blog, contributors around the world reflect on the week's Responsorial Psalm, which is featured in the upcoming Mass. Reflection questions are included in the blog and followers send in their answers as it pertains to their lives. My once-a-week commitment, while not a lot, becomes very therapeutic for me. I ponder and count my blessings.

While such reading and writing activities are not sacrificial in nature, they are adding so much to my Lenten journey. The added reflection I enjoy nurtures my soul. By the time Easter comes around, I am hoping my Lenten commitments will feel even more natural and integrated into everyday life. This way, I can enjoy those Easter chocolate candies without the guilt and with a knowing that God sees my dedication to Him and my willingness to learn.

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What Easter Is Like As A Wiccan

For the majority of people, Easter is the celebration of Christ rising from the dead. But for witches, it's about something very different.
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One thing that can be quite irksome about being a part of the American school/college system is the fact that, for the most part, we are only given time off for holidays recognized by one religion, that being Christianity. I'm not saying these holidays are bad or that Christianity is overrated; far from it. But when you think about the holidays celebrated by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or, in this case, Pagans, it makes you wonder how everyone else chooses to celebrate their own holidays in the midst of the all-mighty Hallmark-centric holidays.

Before I converted to Wicca, I never quite understood why the majority of Americans chose to celebrate the gory death and alleged resurrection of someone during the spring, much like how we choose to celebrate Christmas in December even though many historians believe Jesus Christ was born around June. Although anyone can celebrate their own holidays for their own reasons, I think its also important to understand where these holidays may have really come from and how other religious holidays can be represented during this Easter weekend.

Instead of celebrating Easter, myself and millions of other people who identify as Pagans celebrate the holiday Ostara. This holiday is mostly celebrated around March 21, but fell on March 20 this year. During this time, Pagans celebrate the Spring Equinox, when winter ends and the bright colors of spring are allowed to come forward for the year -- when "Night and day stand equal, The Sun grows in power and the land begins to bloom and the powers of the gathering year are equal to the darkness of winter and death."

Ostara is one of the eight Pagan Sabbats marked by the Wheel of the Year. Each Sabbat marks a new season, equinox or solstice, which are used to signify the cycle of life, love, death and rebirth between the Mother Goddess (Gaia) and the Father God (also known as the Horned God). With Ostara in particular, it represents a new age of fertility, as the cycle of life and death of the Horned God starts up again.

There are many ways witches and warlocks from the multiple branches of Paganism choose to celebrate Ostara, but the majority of them choose to celebrate the Sabbat of rebirth by basking in the fresh spring flowers. For many, they can choose to have a ritual in their hard garden or simply enjoy the world around them.

You may be wondering, well what does some holiday about spring have to do with Easter? I'm glad you asked! As it turns out, like many other pagan traditions, the Christian religion got a few inspirations from the Pagans, one of them being the beloved Easter Egg.

What the rabbit represents for Ostara is fertility, magic and sexual energy, seeing as the main theme in the Spring Equinox is fertility and sowing seeds. Many believe that both of the holidays' names come from the goddess Eostre, who is sometimes associated with fertility and is loosely connected to both eggs and rabbits. There are also many sources, such as Jacob Grimm (one half of the Brothers Grimm), who believe that the egg is one of the symbols of early Paganism.

So how exactly do Pagans celebrate Easter, considering it's usually a week after Ostara? Well, for many, they just use the holiday to reconnect with family and celebrate some much-needed time off. For me, I just celebrate with food.

Lots and lots of food.

Happy Easter and Merry Ostara everyone!

Cover Image Credit: Lucid Source

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The Notre Dame Cathedral–Such A Loss Of History And Beauty, But What A Gift It Was To Experience It

Reid shares her story as she is saddened for Paris and the church.

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After the massive fire that devastated large parts of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the 850-year-old cathedral's spire fell. French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation to share in the nation's sorrow but gave hope for the future. This includes the rebuilding of the cathedral together and making it more beautiful than ever. "The fire of Notre Dame reminds us that our story never ends. And that we will always have challenges to overcome. What we believe to be indestructible can also be touched," Macron said.

Tyler Reid

Among many others, Tyler Reid is saddened for Paris and the church. Although, she counts herself blessed to have seen it such a short time before it was destroyed. Reid, who was lucky enough to visit the amazing structure this past spring break, remarked:

My trip was filled with so many wonderful sites. Although, because Notre Dame carries the title of most-visited monument in Europe, my expectations were high. When I first walked up, there isn't one specific feeling I got; instead, it was more of a million thoughts running though my head. Once inside, looking at the massive stained glass windows combined with all the details in every crevice, it was hard for me to imagine people actually building this without the technology we have today. This hand crafted masterpiece really is so influential considering people still went there to worship, even after so much time has past and so many other cathedrals had been built. This proves how special the Notre Dame Cathedral really is. Due to my experience here, hearing about the fire hurt my heart, especially thinking about how some of the irreplaceable artworks and all of this history may be gone. This place truly influenced people, including me, and for it to be gone is a true tragedy.

Like Macron, Reid shares in the sorrow; although, for her, it was just from one visit. This proves the amazing impact the Notre Dame Cathedral had and hopefully will continue to have even after this devastation.

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