05 March 2014

Not a Holiday - a Holy Time

From Lent
Welcome deare feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authoritie,
But is compos’d of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast the Church sayes, now
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev’ry Corporation.
... It’s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Savior’s purity;
Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he.
In both let’s do our best.
Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
That travelleth by ways:
 Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn, and take me by the hand, and more
May strengthen my decays.
Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast
As may our faults control:
That ev’ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlor; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.

Lent is a Christian idea I can get behind.  Don't get me started on Christmas.  Well really, I should start there.  I am so bah humbug at Christmas time.  I resent expensive Christmas trees and decorations. I reject plastic gifts and fancy papers with matching bows, as a way to celebrate my King.  Don't misunderstand, I participate (begrudgingly), but it loses its Holiness for me somewhere in the seasonal section of Target.  If Christians really wanted to celebrate the Savior's birth, they should be giving for sure, charitable giving, giving to those in need.  But this is the way we ruin that.  First we buy the newest whatever we must have for our children, our close family, and our friends.  Then we fill our houses with delicacies and decorations for the parties we throw to celebrate the season.  We buy festive and fancy clothes to spread the cheer and we bring gifts to those parties for the very needy host.  Then we mail cards with cute pictures of our children to people that we don't interact with all year long, and we send letters bragging about our blessed lives. We sometimes add humor, and some mention life's undoings.  But Lent, repentance, confession, contrition, the spirit of a Holy time surprisingly isn't observed by all Christians.  Rarely will you find a Christian uninterested in Christmas, but how could 40 days of reflection be ignored?

I've never fasted, although I should.  I do celebrate a season of mindful praying; a season where I give thanks, but I more willingly acknowledge my failings; a season where I want to be better, but I recognize I am never going to deserve grace; a season of spiritual discipline, but with an awareness that it should never end.  I celebrate a season of moderation, devoid of indulgences.  While the New Testament doesn't actually mention Lent, it surely acknowledges Christ's prayer, fasting, avoiding temptation, and longing for His Father. 

Does it make me dark and gloomy?  Quite the opposite.  Like all the paradoxes of the universe, when I surrender myself to God's grace, I am renewed; I am humbled; I am aware of my need for God, my need for grace and mercy.

Last year I made two commitments to God, both very private, both my greatest failings. Never before have I succeeded at staying true to my vow.  Through reflections with Lamentations and Jeremiah, through age and a real desire to be better than I am, through prayer and meditation, I succeeded.  For the first time in my life, I honored my vow to God, and it was good.  In that success my spirituality deepened, my awareness heightened, my clarity enlightened me, and I felt whole, completely broken, but whole.

This year I will try again.

I am not righteous.  I am flawed.  But on the cross, I find Holiness. 

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