Mar 4, 2013

God Speaks in Many Tongues

By Nancy Agafitei

Lent is a season of preparation in the Christian church year that begins on Ash Wednesday and fills the 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter, the day celebrated as the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after his crucifixion. In the ancient Church, the weeks leading up to Easter were a time of intensive preparation for the candidates who were to be baptized at the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday. This focus suggests that the season of Lent serves not only as a time to meditate on the suffering that Christ endured on our behalf but also as an opportunity to reflect upon our own Baptism and what it means to live as a child of God.

There is no law requiring Christians to "give something up" as a penance during Lent, since the Bible does not require this. If, on the other hand, a Christian wants to give something up for Lent as a way of remembering and personalizing the great sacrifice that Christ made on the cross for our sins, then that Christian is certainly free to do so--as long as he or she does not "judge" or "look down on" other Christians who do not choose to do this.
For myself, I try to do something positive that helps me to grow in my faith during Lent. This year, I have chosen follow a daily meditation during Lent using an interfaith resource. A friend introduced me to the writings of Joan Chittester, a Benedictine nun from Erie, Pennsylvania, who is the author of over 45 books. In the introduction to her 2013 book entitled "God Speaks in Many Tongues: Meditations on 40 Sacred Texts", the author explains the motivation behind the book that came during her attendance at an international conference organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women. I quote from her introduction below:
"The schedule called for a Day of Prayer, at which every denomination, every major religious leader there, got up and led the conference in a prayer for peace from her own tradition. At first, it seemed like it was going to be a long day of foreign recitations. Dull. But then, little by little, women began to join in. The singing got stronger; the chanting got fuller; the room got quieter, deeper, calmer. We weren’t strangers anymore. We had honored a common God. We had honored one another’s honoring. We had listened to another way of bringing peace, heard the message of it in another voice.

"God had taken all of us beyond our one tongue to the God of many tongues.

"Our God had become bigger—and we, as well.

"The one God had brought us all into Oneness.

"I understood something that day in a way I never had before: Beware the religion that turns you against another one. It’s unlikely that it’s really religion at all. The effect of that day on my spiritual awakening is the impetus for this book, for this experience of meditative reading on the sacred texts of other traditions."
With Sister Joan, I hope that as we walk through Lent together, we may listen to another way of praise, hear the message of God in another voice, and discover the sacred in all things.

Nancy Agafitei is the Branch Librarian at the Barbara Bush Branch of Harris County Public Library, Vice President of Hosanna Lutheran Church, and facilitator of a women's Interfaith discussion group. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston.

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