What It Means to Give Up

Well, I finally missed a day blogging. I knew it would happen eventually, but it’s okay. I blogged in person instead at St. Sarah’s parish in Boston. By that I mean I blathered on incessantly to anyone who would listen. Fortunately, I think I was entertaining enough that people didn’t mind.

Fr. Donald gave a lovely homily last night. I don’t remember all of the specifics, but it boiled down to something like “don’t be a dick.” (TM +Wil Wheaton) Alright, it was actually much more complex than that, but I have a bad memory. It was the parish’s commemoration of the martyrdom of the Cathars at Montsegur. The Cathars made the ultimate sacrifice for their faith, they gave up their lives instead of denying what they knew in their hearts to be true. I pray that nobody should even have to pay that price again.

So the Cathars gave up everything, and it’s Lent, and the subject of “giving things up” is usually prominent at this time of year. The spring is actually full of festivals commemorating martyrs in the Johannite liturgical calendar. Jaques de Molay and Tau Harmonius are also right around now. These are people who were forced by the religious and secular authorities to give up their lives for their beliefs. What can we do to honor their memories?

In my book I talked about these commemorations and some possible ways to honor the martyrs through your own spiritual practice. My suggestion is to fast on the days when we commemorate martyrs. I would recommend the Roman Catholic style “no meat” fast. Fasting is not done for the sake of ego, because that would defeat the purpose of it entirely. Eliminating meat and eating only simple foods is plenty to keep you in the spirit of the thing. Anything more extreme, if you haven’t sufficiently prepared for it, could become spiritually and physically dangerous*.

The point of a fast is to remind you throughout the day that there is something special happening. The Undifferentiated Ground of All Being (sometimes also called God) doesn’t care if you fast or don’t. The only thing God wants from you is for you to return to the Fullness as a fully realized being. Doing the same thing we always do day in and day out is not going to get us there. We need reminders that we are Spirit experiencing the illusion of separation. Fasting triggers this reminder in us every time we are hungry. We fast, not for God, but for our own selves.

The upcoming martyrdom commemorations are:
– Montesegur Day: March 16
– Holy Jacques de Molay: March 18
– Martyrdom of Tau Harmonius: March 22

Will you commit, with me, to honor the memories of these brave people and fast on these days? Let us give up a little so that we too may have a share and inheritance with all those saints and adepti who have gone before. If you make your commitment publicly in the comments you are much more likely to remember.

Photo credit: Meat by Phillie Casablanca

*Fasting can be bad for you. Consult your doctor if you are considering some extreme fast.