Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Prepare to Enter the Desert
Today is the last day of Ordinary time; tomorrow, we begin 40 days of fasting and penance in preparation for Easter, the central celebration of our faith.
We enter into the desert, just as Jesus did, and we voluntarily work to enter into and understand His suffering, so that we may better understand the love he has for us, so much so that he died horribly that we might live.
Jesus did so much for us; can we not do a few things for him to interrupt the comfort of our modern lives?
I used to be terrible with Lent; as a child, Mom always made us give up candy. There was no choice involved. "You're not going to eat candy or sweets until Easter, and you're going to LIKE IT!"
There was no discipline being taught by that method; we did not have the power to obtain sweets for ourselves, so we were deprived without another option. And we tried for 40 days to get what we wanted, usually to no avail, although sometimes we found a stash somewhere.
Then I got older, and as soon as I had some freedom, I didn't give up candy. I gave up Lent. And in all but name, I gave up the Church that had been my haven for so long. I entered a different kind of desert, one that drew me on a road to Hell, and to this day, I'm still trying to recover from the experience. My soul will bear those scars until I enter (by God's grace) the beautific vision.
Even since my return to the Church, my Lenten practices have been lackluster. Last year was somewhat fruitful, in that I recognized what a slave I am to my passions. And I returned to them fully after Easter.
Part of the discipline of Lent has to do with spiritual progress, obtaining control over our passions that otherwise enslave us. It is not about taking a temporary stance only to return and submit to those things or attitudes that control us during the rest of the year.
But this year is going to be different. I have been reading some great books, have recieved great advice and insights from those more spiritual than I, and this year, it's time to face some demons.
I cannot face these demons alone; I cannot overcome these demons by myself. The problem, I've realized, is that I always made the mistake of entering into a dialogue with the demon:
"Yeah, you gave this up for Lent, but you have a choice; you can be as strict or as lenient as you wish, and as long as you aren't doing/eating/engaging in this as often as before, then it's still a deprivation...."
or maybe this:
"You can fall and just pick yourself up again. You can break your fast, it doesn't ruin your day, even if you break it every day you can start over, God understands..."
or even this:
"What's the point? You're only going to return to this habit after Easter...why not just admit you can't do without this and resolve to give it up next year instead?"
And this is how we enter into dialogue with these demons. These demons that keep us enslaved to our passions.
I'm better equipped now, and I've leared that this entrance into dialogue is just a repeat of the Garden of Eden. It is the voice of the serpent that tempted Eve, now tempting us.
Let me be very clear; if you DO give up something for Lent, or promise a certain practice, and you forget, or fail, or break your fast, DON'T GIVE UP! The temptor knows that the best way to get to us is to remain close to the truth, but he leaves it open-ended for it is so easy for us to justify ourselves when we have an opening.
So if the Temptor is telling you, every day, to start over, then recognize this temptation for what it is and SHUT IT DOWN! Don't let the dialogue begin. When you hear that slithering voice hissing in your ear, say an Our Father, a Hail Mary, or this prayer I recently learned:
"I claim the protection of the Blood of the Lamb!"
Repeat as necessary and let the Temptor slither away to be crushed under the heel of the Blessed Mother and drenched in the saving Blood of Christ who died to ransom you from such a beast.
Everyone, I have chosen to face some demons this Lent, and I even told one of our priests that in 40 days, I'm going to be a Saint. He actually didn't laugh at me for once - not to my face anyway. But I have a feeling that the second I was out of sight he doubled over in hysterics at the thought!
So I ask for your prayers...not that I become a Saint (although if that's what God's asking, then may His will be done), but rather, that God give me the Grace to face these demons and call upon the power of Heaven when the Temptor comes my way. It promises to be a very difficult time, yet a necessary one. I can't do this alone.
So I ask you to pray for me, and I, in turn, am happy to pray for you as well. We are a community, we have to pray for each other because NONE of us really faces these things alone. We all need the support and prayers of others. So if you care to post your intention, whether specific or general (ie: pray for me), then please do so.
Lent is a blessed time of year; we should all try to reap the benefits of the spiritual practices encouraged by the Church, and through those, come to better understand why there can never be a Resurrection without great Suffering and a Death on the Cross.