Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, the symbolic beginning of Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the desert before beginning his public ministry. During Lent, believers similarly practice various forms of reflection, simplicity, penance, and prayer. Lent then leads up to Easter, recalling Jesus' death and resurrection.
These symbols are powerful in Christianity; interestingly, they are also powerful symbols that apply to aging as well.
As we age, we too face a "desert time" of retreat, reflection, simplicity, penance and prayer. It is our time of pulling away, looking back, letting go, making amends, and coming closer to the divine. In this process, aging often feels like a time of ashes - of grieving a past that is now gone forever.
But even more profoundly, aging is also (as in Christianity) a time of death and resurrection - the death of an old life - who we used to be, and the unfolding of a new one with vast spiritual potential.
Up until now, Christianity's universal religious symbols were not understood as central to aging, for aging was often a short and confusing time. With our new longevity, and new insights from the mystics, we are discovering that we too are called to follow the path of Jesus, to die to the old self of the middle years and open to a new and divine self to begin our own public ministry in the service of humankind. We are just now beginning to understand this new birth that is central to the new aging.
But this rebirth and renewal does not happen automatically. Getting old does not make you wise. Rather, this profound spiritual transformation requires that we understand the aging process, genuinely long for a new kind of life, and then do the inner psychological and spiritual work that transform old folks into enlightened elders.
My work is based on these universal and archetypal symbols and the hope of a new world for all of us. Join me in this journey of transformation.
By John Robinson