Lent, Day 1: Dancing In The Realm Of The Eternal Flame

Screenshot of Owlet Moth of Southern Africa, curtesy of Moths of Africa web page 

When I told my family that I’m observing Lent this year, and will do it properly with fasting and prayer, my sister Letta immediately sent me a message that she will support me wholeheartedly with prayers, but regrets that she cannot fast with me since she doesnt have any food in her house! She reminded me that the whole point of a fast is to test one’s resolve and being able to overcome temptation. Of course.

Part of my preparation included a reinterpreted Last Supper ceremony the evening before the start of Lent, which my friend Rozanne attended. We opened the ceremony by invoking the ancestors, burning incense and mphepho, and said prayers. After performing our rituals, we sat down to a candle lit dinner, with strings of fairy lights dancing light all around us.

As we were sitting there eating and drinking, a huge (bigger than I’d ever seen) brown moth fluttered over to the light, and rested on a bottle of wine lit up by the flame of bright fairy light. It made itself comfortable on the bottle, then gently opened its wings to reveal an almost comical image of a face, with two eyes and a big yellow line running across the length of its wings, resulting in a broad smile. We sat there, gob smacked. Before I could grab my phone to photograph it, it gathered its wings and gently disappeared into the night, leaving us feeling that a blessing had been delivered upon us and our ceremony. Hm.

The following morning, yesterday, properly began my Lenten period. I woke up feeling inexplicably alive and free. I was deposited an inner knowing that despite my having had to call my creditors the previous day to warn them that my debit orders were going to bounce due to insufficient funds in my bank account, that all is well. I am free, and free of all deprivation and its symbols.

I made my bed with a glad heart, but was somewhat taken aback to watch my mind go on a random witch hunt for everyone that had erred me in the past. I watched it find this person and that one, kick, curse and condemn absent enemies, alive and present only in my mind, transgressions long past, but evidently not forgotten. A Course In Miracles calls this mind murder, “murder without bodies”.

In that moment I knew that my biggest challenge, yes, that’s the word I choose to use, is my mind.

As I drive to SARS in town to sort out my taxes, another insanity emerges: my mind throwing me into a mild panic about starvation. Even though I’d decided to limit my meals to two a day during Lent, specifically to only breakfast and lunch, I’d skipped breakfast because of faffing around in the morning, leaving me time for neither a cup of tea nor a proper meal. And so it is that at 10 o’clock in the morning, my mind somehow manages to convince me that not only am I hungry, but I’m starving, and it’s not even sure that this fast is such a good idea. I know this is not hunger, but what we in SeTswana call gogala, insatiability, the swallowed up ‘hungry ghost’, demanding to be fed and filled. This is the face of my deprivation self.

In spite of this though, an inner stillness descends upon me, and grounds me deep within an inner sacred space. I attend meetings and am welcomed back and held long in the arms of old colleagues, and later at the movies, I cry as I watch that underrated film, Loving, crafted with great care, and performed with absolute quiet integrity. Ruth Negga should have received an Oscar for her precise portrayal of Mildred Loving, and her co-star Joel Edgerton, who is unfairly endowed with ridiculously excessive amounts of sexiness, should have been given an acknowledgment for such superb work. Ya, I have a secret crush, but feel free to tell him if you should see him!

When I drive home after my jaunt in town, it’s in the slow lane, doing 80km per hour, which surprised even me, given that as a driver I tend to err on the side of slight impatience in the fast lane. I’d singularly make the traffic department seriously wealthy if I drove a fast car.

It is close to 5pm by the time I get home, and I am still not hungry, having shared a noodle lunch with some seagulls at the Waterfront. But I am tired, and plan an early night as I slip into comfortable clothing. A text then comes in from my friend Kim, inviting me to an Ash Wednesday Mass at her church in Ocean View. I gently chuckle to myself as I respond that she can’t go to an Ash Wednesday Mass on a Monday, since I’d also planned on attending that mass. When I realized my error, I jumped under the shower and rushed off to Mass.

The Priestess (I don’t know what they are called in the Anglican Church) is a Xhosa woman (come on Vatican, it’s enough now) who caused a great stir when she first took over the predominantly Coloured parish a few years past. But she is fierce and loving, and has somehow won the congregation over. To my deligh, part of this mass is said in Xhosa, irrespective of the fact that maybe only 10% of the congregation is black. Haha! Talk about inclusion!

The drive home is about 5 minutes long, and Amy Grant’s El Shaddai sings along in my mind. When I get home I make a cup of tea, slip into pyjamas, and sip the tea on my balcony, under the stars. This is a happy start. Thank you.

Ka lerato 🙏🏾

Ps, some scripture reading at the Mass said one is not supposed to make a big deal of one’s fast, and that one is not even to talk about it. Eish, too late. I’m sorry but I can’t untell you…

Pps, I looked up the symbolic meaning of a moth appearance, and got this:

“The moth symbolizes a very pure form of a spiritual pursuit…it comes out at night in search of light, and dances like a fairy around a fire… The night represents the darkness of one’s own ego and pitfalls that accompany it. It recognizes that it cannot find its answers in the dark, so it seeks out any form of light to illuminate the heart… The heart -light that guides all souls along the quest of their destiny…” Source: universeofsymbolism.com.


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