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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spring's Sprung and Lent's Begun: Season Reflections

     My father and I were sitting on the back porch and saw the first robins of the season hopping about on the dewy grass in our back yard. Several days earlier, I had observed that tulip sprouts were shooting up by the driveway. "Wow, is spring on the way already?" I queried to myself. Then I felt my nose tingle and my ears plug like they always do when anything resembling life pops its head above the barren ground. Yep, spring's a-coming, alright. Good thing I decided to start taking my allergy medicine early!

    The end of February and the beginning of March, brought into transition this year by Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII's ingenious "Leap Year" extra day device, makes me realize just how fast time is moving. And speaking of fast, the Forty Days of Lent are upon us! For me, that generally means grinding my secular reading list to a halt and picking up religious volumes instead. Also, it means those never-ending Fridays without computer, subsisting off a bowl of applesauce and an English muffin until dinnertime. Yes, I know it's not heroics, but in a culture where one is used to satisfying one's desires instantaneously, it's against the grain. And did you ever notice how everything starts looking like food around the house when you're on a fast? The clock is transformed into a pizza pie and pencils start looking like licorice whips! But alas, raiding the Lazy Susie for a snack is strictly forbidden. "Get thee behind me....."

    At my parish (or at least one of parishes we see, we are really "Roaming Catholics"), the preparations for a Living Stations of the Cross production are under way. This is a good opportunity for teens and young adults to get involved in a church program for Lent. I am going to play Veronica, so I hope to watch one of my favorite Lenten films with the group so that we can all get the feeling of our parts. The movie is called The Redeemer, produced by Fr. Patrick Peyton. In my opinion, screen depictions of the Passion do not have to be excessively gory in order to be moving. This cinema oldie portrays Our Lord and Our Lady with tasteful tenderness and does an emotionally engrossing job of contrasting the base cruelty of mankind with the fathomless mercy of God.

    For the celebration of spring, I am listening to a marvelous CD of seasonal English and early American folksongs. Contained within are rustic hymns, rowdy tavern toasts, and ritual ditties referring to planting, "pace-egging", and Maypole dancing, among other things. The amazing thing about folk music in general is the sheer depth and impact that can be contained within a simple rhyme and catchy tune. The nearness of death is often the back-drop of seemingly light-hearted songs, and after-life is shown as a looming reality and ultimate destiny. Lord Nelson and his crew return as ghosts to collect eggs; plants are depicted as men who are cut down only to spring up again; barleycorn (used for making beer) is cheered as a battle-hero who will "shed his blood for England's good." Perverse, darkly humorous, ghoulish? Perhaps. Profound and thought-provoking? Most definitely.

    This is a season for thinking deep thoughts, after all. Christ is wandering in the silence of the desert, resisting temptation, thinking on His mission, and probably contemplating His prophesied death. I wonder sometimes if He saw us all in his reflections, just as He saw us all during His Agony in the Garden. History was an open book to Him, and everything hinged on one paradoxical act: His own death. So we are invited to enter into communion with Jesus Christ in this Lenten Season, confront our own demons, and reflect on the things of God. With His Grace, we hope to emerge as better Christians, strengthened for the battle of Life that is brought to the forefront on Good Friday, and prepared to draw new hope from the Rising of the Easter Son.

    So tell me, my dear readers, what do you all plan on doing for Lent?

Christ Battles with Satan in the Wilderness


  1. what do you all plan on doing for Lent?

    Well, that's me off the booze again for lent!

    One week down already and counting! (I am marking the days on a wall, like prison - haha, just kidding!).

    From my experience of lent last year, I felt almost galvanised (if you will) in my efforts and found it very easy to decline a beer etc, even if sitting with others who were drinking.

    I wish I could extend this happy discipline and state of contentment as easily to all other aspects of life, all year round!

    I found the experience worthwhile last year and felt I learned from it. I remember my first - long awaited - beer after lent finished was a real anti-climax and then thinking "what exactly did you think you were missing?"

    (Incidentally, if I could just do some exercise, I might even lose a bit of weight during this abstinence lol)

    I managed to get to an evening mass on Ash Wednesday, in my hometown as driving all the way home to the city would have meant I missed the start of the masses there. I currently pass the place I grew up when going to and from work, so its easy to pop in.

    I went to St Patrick's, (the neighboring parish to where I grew up), and it was mobbed, such that the priest was moved to comment he had never seen Ash Wednesday so busy since he came to the parish. (apparently the two daytime masses were full to bursting also). I even saw a guy I was at school with.

    So that was quite an uplifting experience to kick off lent 2012 :-)

    Good luck with your part in the Stations of the Cross, hope it goes well!

  2. We've begun, among other things, a lovely ritual on Fridays loosely referred to as "lights out." We turn off all artificial lights in our house - excepting night lights for safety - at sunset, then light candles and spend our Lenten Friday nights in near-darkness. We pray, sing, talk quietly, or read aloud religious books, such as de Whol's "The Spear." It is very relaxing and focuses the mind and heart on how Christ truly is the light of the world. Then, we blow the candles out, and go to bed until dawn fills the house with light again!

    Here is the link to an article about it:

  3. Hi, GWright and Mary!

    Thank you both for telling me about your Lenten plans.

    GWright, even if last year the beer itself was an anti-climax, living in an area where drinking is both a hobby and a social activity must add to the pain of your Lenten on-the-wagon stilt. No wonder you are mentally chalking off the days!

    I told my father about your gallantry, and it inspired him to have a beer which he has not done for almost a decade now! However, in honor of the Season, the substance he drank was of a non-alchoholic variety ;-) You really must cut out this nobless oblige before it becomes habitual for him...LOL!

    Mary, your family's "light's out" ritual sounds most edifyng. It is amazing how electricity is such a part of our life that we feel lost without it. Giving it up on Friday nights must really bring you into the feeling of darkness before dawn...and Crucifixion before Resurrection. Also, have you ever noticed that singing in the dark always feels more soulful that singing with electric lights blazing? Maybe it has something to do with the bards of old, singing around fires on a long winter's night...

    By the way, how are you able to read in the dark? Are you allowed to use flash-lights? I suppose they're "artificial", but not super bright or anything. I'm sure you've dug up some good Lenten peotry to read! Thanks for the link; I'll be sure to check it out soon!

    God Bless you both! Please keep me updated on your Lenten progress; I'll do the same!

  4. Well, picture this: myself huddled on the floor beside our fireplace with two candles burning at my back - in rather dangerous proximity to my abundance of hair, haha - and reading aloud by the flickering light. No, we did not use flashlights . . . It wasn't that hard, actually, since my eyes are still young and my contacts' prescription still rather new. I'm not sure if Dad or Mom could have managed, though!

    Yes, it is very reminiscent of the darkness of the Crucifixion, especially while we pray the Stations of the Cross. We weren't able to do it last night because of a bout severe storms and tornadoes in our state, but we hope to accomplish the feat again next week.

    As for some other Lenten practices, our parish priest has really been emphazising giving up something for Lent that we intend to relinquish forever - such as a vice or sinful habit; and, of course, increasing our prayer and charity/almsigiving in the process. I found that this made a good bit of sense, since I would usually give up something harmless that I really enjoyed, and then go back to it with a vengeance once Easter morning dawned! Not that this was really a bad thing, but for myself, I realize now that I was having less time to metally/spiritually devote to truly conquering "my self"; and now that I'm focusing more on the interior faults, I feel that Lent has taken on a richer meaning for me.

    I find your spirit of Lenten penance and devotion quite inspiring, and I am keeping you and your family in my prayers during this holy season!

    God Bless, Mary