Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Drudgery

Written by  Rosa Caswell

 

Lent is the greyest, coldest, and most depressing time of the year. At least that is how I remember feeling about lent ever since I was a kid. Even the weather always seems to cooperate. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. March and April are the cloudiest months. And unlike the biting cold of Saskatchewan prairies, the hills of Pennsylvania always bring a damp wet chill that penetrates you to the bone.  My parents were quite vigorous about their Lenten commitments. Desserts were no longer served (Sunday’s included). No more TV. My mother would start playing Gregorian Chant for hours at a time, which, to my childlike ears, sounded like a bunch of old guys droning on about how evil and horrible the world was… it was in Latin, how was I supposed to know? Fasting began on Ash Wednesday and oh the heaviness that came with it! Furthermore, if there was one thing in the world you loved and treasured that would comfort you in all the heavy, damp, pious sorrow, well that was what you were supposed to give up. No attachments! I dreaded lent with every inch of my soul.

That’s not to say that I didn’t try. I loved Jesus very much. I wanted to give him comfort in his agony. And despite my squirmy disposition, I listened to all the readings and homilies at church. I very genuinely wanted to be good. I didn’t want to hurt Jesus. How could anyone want to hurt Him? He was and probably will always be the first and most adored in my heart. His words were like drops of dew on my heart and I have forever been swayed to worship Him… but I don’t always like it. 

Now If I am being honest, after I got married and started having children, I gave up on the spirit of Lent. I have always been either pregnant or breastfeeding for 12 years and I took the “pass go & collect $200” catholic lent card and I have not fasted on Ash Wednesday for 12 years. Of course, this is legit.  Pregnant and breastfeeding moms should not fast. But in my heart of hearts I was gleefully happy to have gotten out of it.  And when it comes to giving up my favorite things, I figured having to be patient with little humans who have total emotional break downs over the color of their cup was good enough. Again, I am pretty sure this is also completely legitimate. Charity, Love, is the highest good. And if giving up comforts is just going to make you grouchy and self-centered, it is best to just work on being charitable rather than trying to win some Catholic virtue contest. But again, in my heart of hearts, I have really enjoyed having an excuse to fast from fasting during lent.

Now how can the Good Lord work with such an unwilling heart? Well in my opinion, the Father of us all has a certain kind of affection for those of us who are always trying to get out of things.  And he seems to have His own way of find a place in our hearts. As if he creates loop holes to his Love. Because low and behold, as Lent approaches this year, I am actually excited.

Now I am the one who wants to play Gregorian Chant like its Christmas music. I have already thought of so many things that I would like to give up for lent that I will probably crash and burn by the 1st Sunday of lent out of sheer enthusiasm! And when those February weather cycles threaten a long cold spring, I clap my hands and hope that winter does indeed linger a bit longer. I need that chill and grey to help me to sink into prayer... into a space of dark stillness where my soul can face that which I wish to change in my heart. The warm spring weather will only pull me out into the bustle of life. Don’t get me wrong, I love the bustle of life. Believe you me, I am usually the 1st to shed my winter coat by March, clinging to the hope that the last cold day has come and gone and refusing to admit defeat. But somehow, this year I am longing for one last moment of interior reflection before the world is resurrected from its’ snowy grave.

But why? Why the shift in perspective? Why are the things that once felt so burdensome now a source of comfort and joy to me?  As a Child, I had the impression that Christ brought sorrow and suffering into the world when he died on the cross. That sorrow was the expression of Love God liked best. As children we don’t know or see or feel the heavy and often terrifying realities of this broken world. The heart of a child is often protected from feelings of overwhelming sorrow. And that is the beauty of childhood. Children remind us of what we are tempted to forget: hope, joy, goodness. You can’t force sadness on children, and you shouldn’t either. Let the children be light. Let them giggle at each other’s ashes and find joy in the small comforts of life. Children hear and learn what they see. And they will pick up the bits of wisdom they need just from watching the community. God does not need anyone’s imaginary lamentations.

I believe what I have learned in the past couple years is that lent is not for God’s satisfaction in seeing us suffer (although watching millions of people quitting caffeine at the same time could very well be heaven’s Super Bowl party, lol. Very amusing I am sure!) No, Lent is for us to give God what makes us suffer. It is a holiday for those who carry the heavy burdens of life’s tragedies. Lent is a place to bring the sorrow, the pain, the sickness of the soul. It is a place filled with love and acceptance designed so that we can face bitter realities that have twisted our hearts. It is a place of healing and forgiveness.  It is dark and heavy, but not like some grouchy anti-social monks, but like the earth under the snow. And the seeds that have fallen and died in our hearts are the wounds we carry. And I want to plant my wounds in the soil of lent so they can grow into something new, something beautiful.  

 The catch is letting go of the ways I currently cope with my pain, so that I can reach and hold and give God what drags me down in life. That is what fasting is for. I cope with pain by eating sugar, drinking coffee, staying busy, feeling in control of my family members ect. ect. ect. I need to make a bon fire with that which does not serve my soul any longer, a burnt offering as it were.  The things I want to give up are things that I am attached too yes, but that I also WANT out of my life. And like the ashes of a forest fire bring fire weed – a most beautiful forest flower - the ashes of that which I choose to “give up” for lent promise to make new that which has been destroyed. So, bring it on Lent, for the 1st time ever, I am so ready!

Read 368 times Last modified on Wednesday, February 10, 2021