Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lent's growing on me

When I was young, it was just that time of year when I had to eat fish on Fridays and do or give up something for 40 days. I didn't mind the latter, in principle, but I hated fish (my mom, a great cook every other day of the year, tended to favor cod fillets cooked into leather and some canned salmon casserole with whole bones that freaked me out), and so I dreaded the season. I've been finding other ways to avoid regular meat, though, so there hasn't been much of a problem there lately.

I used to think of Lent as a spiritually dry time, reflective of it being a liturgically dry time. I don't think dryness is the most accurate way to describe my experience with Lent, though. It has been that way--just trudging through, not seeming to get anything out of it but having enough motivation to keep at it, and otherewise no more interesting than ordinary time--but I think it was more my imagination or expectation, or just temporarily putting a label on something I sometimes felt at other times of the year.

What it does seem to be, though, is raw; a little tender like a blister that's been popped and is healing. It's not exactly painful, but I am a man of mild and even temperment, so any increased spiritual or emotional sensitivity is unfamiliar, and a little uncomfortable in its strangeness, although it's not entirely unwelcome. Particularly this year, I'm getting more of a sense of how poor a soul I really am; the rationalized conceits I protect my ego with seem less compelling, and even the objective truths I take comfort in don't cover everything--I may know I'm properly disposed to receiving the Eucharist after receiving absolution following a sacramental confession, for instance, but I certainly don't deserve it. Seeing--if only dimly--the distance between where I am and where God is, and seeing God bend heaven and Earth to reach us, to reach me and people like me, is an awesome and humbling thing, humbling and awesome, around and around. Sometimes it's enough to make me weep during Mass, which strangely enough is a sort of consolation in itself. It doesn't always happen in the Lenten season, but maybe times out of ten since I've started thinking about it.

I don't really understand it. It's worth meditating on more, but I'm not sure I'll be able to put it into adequate words for posting here. I'll try, though, if no one objects. Any of you have a similar or related experience? What'd it mean to you?

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