Love and Lent.
This year the day of hearts and love coincides with the opening of the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday. For Catholics, it is the beginning of a period of fasting and prayer. We all know that, on this particular day, we receive ashes on the forehead, which symbolize the dust from which God made us. 'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'
This is such sobering wisdom, especially for those of us who sometimes forget the lessons of humility. For those who sometimes feel that the world revolves around them and that it will fall apart without their intervention. The ashes, they say, are made from the burnt branches and leaves of the blessed palm, from the previous Palm Sunday celebrations. This is blessed with some Holy Water and exposed to incense smoke.
Aside from humility and penance, this day-and for some, the entire period of Lent-is spent imbibing the lessons and practice of sacrifice. The religious don't go to the malls or restaurants or attend parties after receiving the ashes. I am not sure if modern Catholics still observe this. No matter what your practice is, it is important to remember that Lent is a season of reflection and fasting, to prepare ourselves for Easter Sunday, or Christ's Resurrection. It is largely seen as the time when we attain redemption. We have to exert some effort to make ourselves worthy of this.
As we celebrate the beginning of Lent, on the same day we also think about love and express our emotions to the people who mean the world to us. Contrary to popular practice, Valentine's Day is not just for lovers. We all could take the opportunity to say 'I love you' to our loved ones, including our parents, friends and children.
Surveys reveal that it's the teachers who receive the most number of tokens on Valentine's Day. Many people also express their love by giving gifts to their pets! In Finland it is popular to spend the day with friends-to appreciate them and show them how much you love them! And, yet, the most important person to whom we must show love is oftentimes neglected: ourselves.
So why not show yourself some love this Valentine's Day? Whether you are single, married or in any kind of relationship, it is always a good idea to shower the self this time with attention, care and devotion. Better yet, why not tie up the celebration with Ash Wednesday and remind yourself that God's grace and mercy are available to those who call on Him. Prayer and meditation are excellent ways to show love for self, because then we are exposed to the True Love from Above, and to the kind of love that really makes a difference in our lives.