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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Great post about Lent.

From John Heard at Dreadnought:

It has always seemed too easy that a month or so of fasting and abstinence can result in the kind of spiritual payoff that a faithfully kept Lenten vow represents. Nothing, I was shocked to discover as a child, feels better than a clean heart trilling on Easter morning. It is like ten post-confession glows. But I guess that is what the Divine Mercy means. Lent changes lives.

That doesn't help, however, at the outset. Lent is meant to be hard. It is hard. I find Lent a serious challenge. I had great trouble writing this column. Once you start in on Lent you open yourself up to serious criticism. Only, the judge isn't some easygoing colleague or loving spouse, it is the Lord of the Universe and you've been a miserable young bastard.

So, sordid details get parsed. My suffering is compared with His suffering and the gap between the two, the way His exceeds mine in magnitude, complexity and positive impact, causes even more squirming. Lent, if there were no point to it, would be the nastiest period in the calendar.

But there is a point.

There's that glow.

And near the very end of Lent we might stumble blinking into Holy Week, a time that climaxes the heady ritual. None of it, however, will compare with the tension and beauty, the chiaroscuro pageant at play inside the Catholic who takes the Lenten discipline seriously.

This is what is so hard to explain to non-Catholics. There is something remarkable about Lent that makes all the pomp secondary. As incongruous as it sounds, most of the Catholics at a Maundy Thursday Mass have their heads down as the procession passes. Magnificent watered silks, great clouds of incense, candle-flare and gilded wonders glide past, almost unheeded. Our eyes are fixed on an interior vision of Christ.

What is going on in the head and heart, the things that stir in the soul are, rather, what overwhelms. Like the Blessed Sacrament, most often veiled or hidden in churches, or the ostensibly crushing fact of the crucifixion we hail, look in Catholicism for those things that are hardest to catch sight of: there you'll find her riches.

As always, RTWT.

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