Posts tagged ‘Lent’

April 29, 2011

An Even Holier Week

Last week may have been “Holy Week,” but this week—the Octave of Easter—is perhaps even holier.  It struck me only midway through the week that this time deserves some reflection, as well.

I love the incredible depth of the liturgical calendar.  The transition from Lent to Easter is one of the greatest examples.  Easter isn’t just a day; it’s eight days, which extend into a whole season—a season ten days longer than Lent!  I love that after the sacrifices, the focus on penance, and the daily reminders of our need for God’s mercy and grace, we have a celebration that just goes on and on.

In this hemisphere, at least, it’s a time when spring has finally come, the sun is shining (except when it’s raining), and for the first few weeks, at least, it seems like everyone is wearing her favorite dress.  It’s a time we are reminded of the victory, reminded of love, reminded that there is so much good in life.

While I love the symbols and the Scripture that define this season, prayer has been tough this past week.  Coming out on the other side of an intense season, with the opportunity to just relax, watch The Biggest Loser (which continues to inspire me, but more on that later), and eat dessert in the middle of the week, has thrown me off kilter, and it got me thinking.

Is joy more difficult to appreciate than suffering?

How many movies, books, and songs are there about trying to appreciate the good things in life?  Why can it be so difficult to enjoy the things we think we want for ourselves, for our families, when we have them?  Why are we (or why am I, at least) always thinking about the next thing?  The next day’s schedule, the next chore to complete, the next meal to cook?  Sure, part of it is our fast-paced society, but I think part of it is human nature, too.  We are so easily distracted, so easily pulled in myriad directions, that we struggle to focus on the here and now.  To be “present,” as it were.

I’m reminded of a quote from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  (If you haven’t read this, go find a copy and get going.  Like, now.  It’s a play, too, which I hear is phenomenal.  Read the book, then buy tickets.  Okay, tangent over.)  Here it is:

“For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.”

The present is the moment in which we can experience love, grace, life in all its fullness, whether we are formally praying, in conversation with another person, or simply being silent and still.

For me, the start of this Eastertide is as much a time of reflection and renewal as Lent was.  There is still much work to be done, yet now I am reminded that the promise is fulfilled.  And after forty days of keeping this word out of the liturgy, I can again call out, “Alleluia!”

April 22, 2011

Good Friday

“Our freely chosen penances for Lent by now have begun to grow into virtues within us.  As the Catechism reminds us: ‘Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1804).  As Lent moves along in its final days, our penances may very well be with us after Easter, in the fruit they bear as the virtues of our life.”
— Father James M. Sullivan, O.P, taken from “The Last Days of Lent: Our Passions for the Passion”, Magnificat, April 2011

Most years I struggle with what to do about my Lenten sacrifices once the season has ended.  When I’ve given up sweets, the answer was easy (clearly go back to eating sweets, ASAP!).  But when I’ve added something new into my prayer life—time in a chapel each day or spiritual reading—it’s tough to give those things up, in a sense, and go back to “normal.”

The thought I’ve posted for today puts the transition into Eastertide, and then back into Ordinary Time, in a new and welcome perspective for me.  It’s not the things we do that matter as much as what those things do to us.  We can hold on to the lessons, the virtues, the new understanding of mercy and grace, without necessarily continuing our Lenten practices.

This year there will be some new moderation in our household, inspired by my Lenten observances.  For one thing, John and I are going to attempt limiting dessert to only one night a week and weekends (note: attempt!).  And for another, there is still some spiritual reading I’d like to do that wasn’t available during the season.  But these practices are more about a change in my priorities, a new mindset that I’d like to pursue in the future, than about living by the liturgical calendar.

I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but one of my favorite quotes about prayer is this, “Prayer doesn’t change the situation, it changes you.”  I’m not sure how to credit this, because whoever passed these words on to me told me they came from an episode of Dawson’s Creek.  Go figure.  But now I see that this is very much the case as Lent draws to a close.  I am entering into the Easter season not only with permission for myself to catch up on seven weeks of The Biggest Loser, but more importantly, with a stronger realization of God’s love in my life every day and a new willingness to respond to it with all I have.

A blessed Triduum to you!

April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday

“Reading the Gospels, there are many times we might wince at something one of the Twelve says or does. . . . We’re meant to see something of ourselves here—like these disciples, we often miss the boat with Jesus, even after so many years of living with him!  Jesus’ response is instructive: he is gentle in offering his correction and he doesn’t walk away from these Twelve to start over with a new group.  Jesus doesn’t need our perfection, he only asks for our faithfulness.”
– Reflection based on Matthew 20:17-28 by Father Richard G. Smith, published for March 23 in Magnificat’s 2011 Lenten Companion

Sometimes I wish I could get a report card from God, a real, tangible thing that would let me know what I’m doing well, where I’m failing, where I need further improvement.  Being honest and truly reflecting on my thoughts, my words, my actions, my habits, is a challenge, and one from which my mind easily strays.  Often the things I struggle with seem trivial when considered one at a time, but when I think of them together, the whole can be astounding.  How many times have I turned from God?  How many ways have I chosen myself and my own comfort over helping another?  Sometimes I wish I could just hit “reset” and start over.

With its focus on penance, Lent is a blessed time to remember that, in a way, Jesus wants the same for me.  Yes, He needs me to admit my faults and honestly seek forgiveness, but His mercy is so tremendous that once I begin to seek it, I am showered with it.  It is easy when reflecting during Lent, or perhaps in preparation for Confession any time of year, to think that I am beyond forgiveness.  But God knows me better than I know myself, and He knows I am important, worthwhile, and ultimately, a part of His plan.

As we enter the Triduum, these last few days before Easter, let’s remember that we don’t have to have all the answers.  In fact, we only need one answer: “Yes.”  Yes to love, yes to mercy, yes to forgiveness, yes to grace.  Yes to the sacrifices of Lent, and yes to the coming glory of the resurrection!

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