Wednesday, March 26, 2014

At Lent's Midpoint

Today is the 22nd day of Lent. One-half of 44 is 22. So today marks the mid-point of Lent. (The official, liturgical celebration of Lent's mid-point, will of course come this Sunday, Laetare Sunday.) As I suspect may be the case with many, my more ambitious Lenten resolves have largely gone unfulfilled. More or less, that's what happens to me every year, not least because of the inherent tension between overly ambitious ascetical aspirations and the reality of an undisciplined personality. And there are always good reasons - or at least good excuses. For example, much of this Lent's first week was taken up with an important community meeting, which meant lengthy travel to and from. And then I came back with a cold. That's not so bad as some years when I routinely got sick around the first week of Lent - sick as in bronchitis and even once a touch of pneumonia. I've never been good at being sick. The slightest symptom quickly eviscerates the most elevated of intentions.
The bottom line is that to live Lent seriously requires commitment and perseverance, which of course is why Lent serves so well as a metaphor for life in general and the disciple's vocation in particular. Yet missing the mark and backsliding are also endemic features of life - including a Christian life. Hence the two-fold character of Lent as a season structured around conversion and repentance - and the two corresponding sacraments of baptism and penance. In the old liturgy, the baptismal dimension of Lent was always there in the background, but the post-conciliar reform has made Lent's baptismal dimension even more explicit. Either way, however, the recovery of that first fervor exemplified in the Church by the example of the catechumens remains a perennial challenge, which a serious engagement with the Lenten liturgy so dramatically highlights. So let's see where the second half of Lent leads me now!

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