For those of you who don't know, the season of Lent in the Catholic Church is a six-week trial-by-fire in the early springtime of heavy spiritual lifting (fasting, abstaining from meat, giving up our daily pleasures as sacrifices, praying.) It is a sort of boot camp for the soul, especially for those who will be baptized on Easter. In the end it becomes a time to scrap everything in your life that you really don't need, to dig until you find the real naked you underneath, to detach yourself from all that you thought important in order to rearrange your priorities.
It is very cathartic, to say the least.
It is a season that begins with a reminder of death, when ashes are applied to the forehead with the words "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust you shall return." It is also a season that nearly ends with a re-imagining of one of the most brutal kinds of deaths, being nailed with iron spikes through the hands and feet to a cross and left to asphyxiate/bleed to death. But in the very end, Lent is preparation for a miniature heaven, that of the remembrance of the resurrection from the dead of a man who was also God.
This year I think is going to host a very good Lent. My wife and I have already resolved on our own special sacrifices and my children are getting old enough to understand what is going on this time around. Also, on a more national level, our country is gearing up for what looks like a showdown between God and government, between the laws of men and the laws of the Almighty. It will separate the mediocre from the fervent, the true from the false. It will be a trial by fire.
But more importantly I think is the small, individual purifying struggles that will be the arbiter of the quality of this Lent. An example of this: I was recently inspired by secular sources on YouTube concerning the Tiny House movement, in which people realize that their big mortgage, big square-footage houses are not providing happiness and so downsize to very small homes. They in many ways unconsciously express the great truth of being poor in spirit, of being happy with fewer things, of ridding themselves of excess and unnecessary clutter. My wife and I have become inspired to do the same thing, but infused with a Christian sense of poverty of spirit, and it has yielded amazing results so far (we aren't nearly done yet...) Our tiny apartment seems so much larger now that we got rid of a few things and rearranged others and generally dealt with the mindless junk that we have kept for so long. It is freeing.
So next week, when Lent begins in earnest with that very long hungry Wednesday, be of good cheer. We are about to decompress and declutter for 2013. We are about to become more free, more ourselves, and more good, as long as we let the God-man in to do His work.
Photo by LemosaCorel, via Wikipedia.