The first part of the year falls behind us. Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, the festivals of the birth and incarnation of Christ, have resounded into the New Year.
Now we begin the second great cycle of the year. As summer wanes and autumn reminds us that death is a certain part of our earthly condition we are challenged to find another certainty within death; resurrection or eternal life. This time is known as the Easter season in Christianity and also has a threefold aspect to its unfolding within the year. There is a preparation of Passiontide, the fulfillment of the idea of Resurrection in Easter and the transformation of the power of life beyond death in Ascension.
As you read this we begin the journey by entering into Passiontide and can therefore ask ourselves what a modern spiritual perspective of this autumnal aspect of Easter can offer us today. In the Christian Community we have a deep seated spiritual rhythm that works with both the sun and the moon rhythms in the festivals. While other churches celebrate the 40 days of Lent and culminate the season during the last two weeks for Passiontide, we give Lent a different gesture and increase Passiontide to the four week moon rhythm.
Lent is a time where we can transform the traditional idea of abstinence or fasting. The idea of fasting or giving something up is a practice that creates within our soul a sense of privation that in turn may drive us to feel something about ourselves. The idea is not to suffer as Jesus did, but to create circumstances where we can take time to reflect upon our lives and who we are in them. Many different practices can support this; we can for example give up being so busy and commit to some soul searching about our inner lives and other aspects of our role in the world.
In the church rituals we can therefore free the season of autumn and Passiontide up from antiquated religious gestures and devote our spiritual religious attention to the transformation of our human state. The colour at the altar turns black for four whole weeks and the prayers we hear during this season lead us to a deep realization that there is a lot of work to be done if the human being is really going to ascend.
The end of the Mayan calendar and many spiritual movements speak of our times as one of ascension. What does it require of us for our full humanity to transform into creative angelic beings that can co-create with the spiritual worlds? In the Christian framework this needs to include, along with our physical bodies, the whole of the natural world: the stars and planets, as well as the animal, plants and mineral worlds.
How far are we to really filling the world of creation with the light of spirit or the Christ as the Lord of the Elements? Where can we generate true and living imaginations of what that journey entails?
The Seasonal prayers of Passiontide, Easter and Ascension give us some help to direct our devotion to the path. This path then opens into the third part of the year at Whitsun.