It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, that might be the wrong way to phrase it, but I always get recharged by the season of Lent. Since I experienced a rebirth of faith many years ago Lent and Easter have been particularly special to me. The time is about self-reflection and re-dedication to many of the tenets of the Catholic faith that I hold dear. Since I’ve been practicing these exercises, I haven’t seen it as a burden or struggle, but often times as a way to focus on self-improvement as well as an expansion of my spiritual life. One thing that has drawn me to the season is that the word Lent is pretty much a Germanic word for spring, a season itself ripe with symbolism and power both religious and secular. I don’t know why Lent caught on as the name for the preparation for Easter, but I’m glad. Using a word like Pentecost (the fifty days following Easter), tessarakoste or the forty days, might be kind of cool too, but I like the connection to the natural world. Spring is the end of winter, which seems to get harder each year. It is the return of baseball and the promise of summer. And while the chocolatiers and Hallmark try their best to commercialize the holiday, its religious significance far out strips the secular celebrations unlike Christmas.
Ending at Easter is quite powerful. Easter is the day when Christians really get down to it. I find it very meaningful that according to the Catholic tradition, Lent ends on Holy Thursday, or the remembrance of the Last Supper. It was on this day, this evening to be more precise, that Jesus makes the decision to give it all up to God. This is where he accepts God’s will. After that while it is significant, is really just a matter of following along. Jesus is moved throughout the rest of the passion, with little resistance on his part, a willing sacrifice. The true bravery, and inspiration for me, is that moment when he makes that fateful decision. At that point, the debate is over, the course set. What a perfect time to end our reflection, our searching and begin to celebrate the passion and resurrection. In short to take the action that we have been preparing for over the course of Lent.
So how am I preparing this year? Glad you asked. I have tried for many years now to incorporate the various disciplines called for by the Church during Lent. It is much less about giving something up than including something, though I do still give up something. Self-sacrifice is one of the tenets of Lenten practice. I try and find something that will be a sacrifice, something that I enjoy but perhaps devote a little too much to it. Many times I find that after Lent my sacrifice has shown me I really didn’t need my indulgence at all, like when I gave up watching sports media programs, Pardon the Interruption and the like. Or it has brought me closer to someone, like when I give up sugar. My wife doesn’t eat sugar as a matter of course and to really focus on that made me appreciate how difficult that truly is. This year I’ll be giving up snacking after dinner. I got to say, this is going to be quite difficult. I loves me some chips and candy while watching TV at night. In preparation for this I’ve already thrown out a huge bucket of cheese balls, lest temptation get the best of me. I considered for a moment doing what my friend Julia is doing, giving up all processed food, but, well, a man’s got to know his limitations.
As far as adding things, doing good works, alms giving and spiritual reflection, these have been absorbed by the family this year. The kids want to read the Bible for five minutes every day before bed time which I think is really cool. Of course I get loads of questions just reading Harry Potter with them, so this should be an interesting forty days. I also plan on meeting with my spiritual adviser at least once during the season, just take a moment and feel a connection to a greater mission. Also the kids want to save money and give it to the local food pantry when Lent is over. Again really cool and I’m very proud of them. I didn’t prompt either one of these things I swear. Maybe we can even do some volunteer work before Lent is over, that would be great.
I don’t know if this quite fits the “good works” ethos, but I hope to keep writing, hopefully 15 minutes a day before the computer is turned on, but after the prayers and meditation has occurred. Adding more discipline always feels good. So, it might be in poor taste to say “Happy Lent” but I hope you take a moment this spring and discover some way to renew yourself. By April it will feel really good.