This is how Lent usually begins for me. Self propelled, pants on fire, spiritually dead by the time I get off the porch. Why is this? Perhaps it is too many pazckis in my belly; tried to finish off that last pound of See's Chocolates before the Ash Wednesday deadline; trying to cram too many gotta do tasks into the almighty Lenten self improvement program. I am not alone. There are a lot of folks I know who also take advantage of the austerity of the season to wittle off that 10 pounds of winter warmth; to start a new exercise program or to change a bad habit. (New Year's Resolutions Revisited). So to you, my "soon to be better-disciplined" comrades: "Nothin' wrong with that." But let us be challenged for a moment.
Lent is not a self-improvement program per se. Lent is a journey. A pathway to something much greater. We recall elements of our Us-ness in the waters of baptism and the need to repent on many levels, but it doesn't begin or end there.
What is Lent exactly? Lent is a 40 day period of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter. Our liturgy changes from the green of ordinary time to the purple penitential time as we steel ourselves to meet the risen Lord at Eastertide.
The word Lent derives from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning "Spring," and lenctentid, which literally means not only "Springtide" but also was the word for "March," the month in which the majority of Lent falls. Playing around with words a little more, I imagine that lent also has something to do with "length"; the days are becoming longer and the hours of light overcome the hours of night. Symbolic? You betcha. Perhaps it will mean that I have to stretch a little too; lengthen my grasp. Grope for God. And there's the nouggat filling, er um I mean ultimate reason for the season. (Sorry, reptile brain still on the launchpad). Simply stated, Lent is our quest for The God of the Universe. What we do to slough off the bad and instill the good is what propels us. We give up things in order to stretch out. We jettison the 50 mental pounds of heft in order to soar spiritually. We gain mastery over self, the hamster wheel that is the mind, bodily temptations & earthly delights so that we can become supernaturally- fit, divinely purified; make room for the Heavenly Guest.
So Lent is not a "what" as much as it is a "why". The Wile E. Coyote character does unfortunately represent me well. My "pants on fire" mentality sometimes has me focusing too readily on that external roadrunner and less on the ever present reality that God is waiting for me....He is in HERE. Not in a barren wasteland or a howling desert, but in the oasis that is my soul. The journey is to my inner region, where I shall find food and drink in steady supply....
It was a great delight for me to consider my soul as a garden and reflect that the Lord was taking His walk in it. I begged Him to increase the fragrance of the little flowers of virtue that were beginning to bloom, so it seemed, and that they might give Him glory and He might sustain them. -St. Teresa of Avila
Ergo, I am putting down the chocolate
Taking up my beads
Finding my way to adoration and prayer
Gathering my Carmelite saints and their writings around me (because, frankly, they are the best examples I have)
And preparing for warp speed
See you in coach... travel light.