Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Jumping into Lent: Feet First?

When I was growing up, our family had a membership in the local swimming club. It was not a fancy place by any means, but it had a pool which opened in spring and closed at the end of September. (How we looked forward to the opening day!) My siblings (all six of them) were active members of the swim team and went to various meets and competitions (not my thing at all). But everything started on opening day.

I remember standing at the edge of the pool one year in my new Catalina bathing suit, smelling the chlorine and wondering: head first or feet first? Should I dive in, making a graceful but prolonged entry, or just spring off the edge holding my nose, feet first?

And here we are today, on the edge of the Lenten season. And many of us are wondering: What is the best way for me to start Lent? Head first or feet first? To be perfectly honest, I'm never quite sure. I have my Lenten books picked out (starting with St Thomas Aquinas' Meditations for Lent--Sister Lorraine will be so pleased!), but not my Lenten practices. (I am toying with the idea of fasting from the snooze button...)

Maybe I'm going about it the wrong way. Maybe I would start Lent with greater clarity if I thought about where Lent wants to take me. We get a hint about that in today's Gospel, in Peter's words: "We have left all things and followed you."

That sounds kind of intimidating, but the Orthodox Saint Paisios of Mount Athos said, "One person receives a gift and rejoices for that single thing. Another person gives everything away and rejoices for everything. The joy felt when one receives is a human joy. However, the joy felt when one gives is a divine joy. This divine joy comes from giving."

It is true: "Where we are going" in Lent is not the desert itself, but the joy of Easter. Lent is the road.

But not quite yet. It's still Mardi Gras.

No comments: