Pain as an offering to God
Last week, when my friend dropped in for dinner, I was surprised to see him not eating chicken. “The children can eat,” he told me, “but not us.” It was Lent, under which Christians sacrifice small pleasures as an expression of their love for Jesus Christ. In the last week of Lent that runs through Good Friday all the way to Easter this Sunday, pain becomes the devout Christian’s tool of worship. A sacrifice of prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial, the Holy Week recalls the death and the resurrection of Christ.
Sacrifice is not restricted to Christians alone. During Eid, Muslims make a similar offering. They remember the sacrifice that Abraham made to Allah — that of his son. Today, Muslims offer a goat. But before the sacrifice, they feed the goat for a month, during which they often get attached. When the sacrifice is finally made, it is not just a goat, it is a lot of love that is being sacrificed.
Hinduism takes a similar look at pain, though in this case, sacrifice — like its spirituality — is part of life, not an event. Fasting, for instance, that apparently also has health benefits. This is now embedded into its culture. So, there’s fasting to get married, to get a child, for the husband’s good health, though I’m yet to come across a sacrifice for the wife’s health. Pain is an offering to gods, either for some benefit, or just for the love of god.
When I look beyond religion, I find that more than the precise sacrifice, it is the spirit with which it is offered that becomes important. For that we need to go beyond the physical. And here, all religions merge into spirituality. Finally, in the sacrifice, we offer ourselves to our God.
I leave you with a moving montage of photographs of Christians in the Philippines, who undertake physical suffering on Good Friday, every year. Yes, faith is blind; it is equally inspiring, enriching, deepening.