Saturday, February 26, 2011

"On Legacy: Part I," by Aimee.

"For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” -Bible Passage (Genesis 3:19)

This passage from Genesis in the Bible, invokes thoughts about legacy and what is left afterwards: when we return to dust. I've been thinking about this quotation: the epigraph of Ash Wednesday, one of my favorite services of the year in the Catholic Church, because it is coming up fast. (Where has the first quarter of this year gone already?) 

Those of you that know me know that I am not an overly religious person, nor do I preach any of my own thoughts generally, but I would like you to know: that even though I may stay away from church on Christmas and on Easter, that I usually attend and have always tried to attend mass on Ash Wednesday. While some of the messages of the Catholic Church and I don't mesh- I have found that you cannot run away from faith, and that our spirituality can guide us through harder times in life, when our own strength cannot.  Catholic Mass represents a comforting tradition, one I grew up with, and then chose on my own to continue to follow, and have since shared with my family. 

Photo courtesy of:
St. John's the Evangelist in Attleboro, Massachusetts, stands as a beacon to me, calling me home to my family. Inside, the pews: cold and hard wood, nothing like the padded rows here in Florida churches. The walls made of stone- drafty and echoing the choir from the loft above. Here, there are flat screen televisions, air conditioning and professionally tended lighting and music technicians. Yet, no matter the venue, the messages are the same. Especially the message of Ash Wednesday- a day that reminds us of how human we are, and how fragile our lives are as well.

In addition to the penance, reflection and fasting encouraged by this first day of Lent, Catholic Online shares the message of the significance of the ashes in this way, "While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance." (source)

There are many holidays of contrition in faiths around the world: 

In Judaism, the observance of Yom Kippur strikes a similar message: "The name of Yom Kippur means "Day of Atonement." It is believed to be the last chance to change God's judgment of one's deeds in the previous year and his decisions one's fate in the coming year. The "books" in which God began recording his judgments on Rosh Hashanah are sealed at the end of Yom Kippur. It is thus a day of intensive reflection, repentance, fasting, worship and self-denial" (source).

In Islam,
Ramadan is observed for the ninth Islamic calendar month, and includes fasting "to focus on purifying the soul"
(source). They also observe the Day of Arafat, (during one day of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabi called Hajj) where they gather at the Plain of Arafat to seek God's mercy and Muslims elsewhere fast for the day. (source)

In Hinduism, Hindu's observe Mahashivaratri, the Great Festival of Shiva, a day spent in meditation and fasting to honor his mercy to a hunter who survived a lion by climbing a tree and offering Bilva leaves to Shiva in one legend. "In general, Hindu festivals "are intended to purify, avert malicious influences, renew society, bridge over critical moments, and stimulate or resuscitate the vital powers of nature." They include a wide variety of rituals, including worship, prayer, processions, magical acts, music, dancing, lovemaking, eating, drinking, and feeding the poor." (source)

In Buddhism, it is thought that  "repentance is most important in daily practice" (source). Daily meditation is a way to eradicate evil thought, speech and deeds. There is a Repentance Ceremony called Liang Huang Bao Chan which "[is] to eradicate bad karma and to liberate all beings from suffering." You can read more about this ceremony here.

So, from today's research of the common repentance for sins or shortcomings, and meditations or prayers for God's forgiveness and grace, and for reflection on our own mortality, a common trend through many of the world's major religions- I have decided to consider my own legacy to the future in my next post, because "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." -From the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy.