08 March 2011

and to dust you shall return

We 'do' lent at our house.

(I have a tendency to be overly ambitious with my lenten goals, and so sometimes I fail at doing lent, but we try.)


Well, it's complicated. First of all, we do not believe that doing lent is like doing the sabbath - required for all Christians everywhere. We are required to keep the Sabbath, which in our world may mean a additional things, but what it definitely means is weekly corporate worship.

There has long been a discussion of whether or not we should 'keep days': Paul (the apostle, not my husband...) tells us that keeping days will not earn favor with God (and by extension we are no longer required so to do) (Gal.4:10). So, we can throw out day keeping as a requirement; unlike our Roman brothers and sisters, we, in the freefromthePope world, don't have Holy Days of Obligation.

But, the traditional Presbyterian (the branch of the church in which I currently find myself) position had a little bit of throwing the Baby out with the Bathwater. That is to say, we knew that the Church couldn't (and shouldn't so pretend to) determine our salvation based on whether we made it to mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

But along with that, we threw out the entire church calendar.
There went the Baby.

Or maybe not the baby, in my opinion, at least something useful.

Why useful?

Well, we humans tend to forget things. We especially tend to forget things we don't particularly like. If it were up to us, we'd probably just have Christmas and Easter. And Christmas and Easter again.
And Christmas and Easter are great - they are both celebrations of hallelujahs, of wonderfulness, of Christ, of Grace.

And grace is good. It's not just good, it's it. It is the story. The climax. The point.

But guess how Grace doesn't make sense?


It's like Cinderella meeting Prince Charming without our having seen her scrubbing the floor.

It's like a wedding day without the courtship.

And, here in America, protestant land, we have done just that. We have gone with grace alone - with Christmas and Easter only (and we don't even all go to church at Christmas - don't get me started...), and if you look around, we seem to have forgotten the evil stepmother.

The hours on our knees.

The altar, the sacrifices, the law.

And it shows in the lives we lead. We are overgraced and underhumbled.

What does this have to do with the Church calendar? Well, it is the forgetting the things we want to forget and remembering the things we want to remember: We don't like the altars or the law. But they're necessary. And something that helps us remember is Lent.

Lent is the season in the church calendar that reminds us of the story behind the Grace. Of the law. Of our humanness and of our need for Christ.

And, frankly, I need reminding. I'm a seasonal gal, and an absent minded professor on top of that. I operate seasonally - I drink red wine in the winter and white in the summer; I get so excited for red beans and rice and heavy stews as soon as the leaves start to change; in May, it's all I can do not to make pitchers and pitchers of pina coladas and sit on the back deck dreaming of the gardens I have not planted.

I am not the only one. We are seasonal creatures. We were created for the seasons and the seasons were created for us.

This is why all the people in Southern California are insane.

=) Gotcha.

Anyway, I need the seasons as reminders, or my life would be all out of whack. The same with my spiritual life. I need Advent and Epiphany and Pentecost and most definitely Lent.

So, what do we do with Lent? Well, it has been traditionally a time for fasting.
Find a major form of spirituality that is not all tied up with food, and you will have found something noteworthy. And we Christians are no different. Paul (again, apostle, not husband) preached about food; one of our very few sacraments is the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, the Lord's Supper.

What do we do to commune - to sign and seal our common relationship with Christ?

We don't shake hands or hug or kiss or make love or visit. We eat together. Bread and Wine.

So, we fast. And it needs to be from food.

But, Lent is a fast with a purpose (and it's not to look better in our bathingsuits, like one darling little fluttery girl once told me). It's a fast to have us contemplate; to have us pray and meditate on our sin and our need for Christ. It is there to get us ready for Easter; to make us know what the resurrection means.

And sometimes to do that requires more than just giving up food.

For me it requires a couple of things, and one is that it requires that I limit my media consumption.

Television and the Internet are, frankly, the opposite of contemplative. A big part of my non-contemplative day is time I spend cruising CraigsList, education blogs, Wikipedia or, most for me, Facebook. I love the comfort of witty, but non-consequential updates from my friends and family. I love to see pictures of my friends and of their children. I love to connect with those whom I don't often get to connect. I love to see what funny things people can come up with to respond to other's comments. I love it. But it ain't helpin' me contemplate jack.

So, this year, for the third year in a row, during Lent I'll be deactivating my facebook account. I'll be out of the loop a bit for the next 46 days, but it'll be a good out of the loop. That out of the loopness will force me into having time for other things - most specifically for prayer, reading of scripture and meditation.

This is not a fast. A fast is inherently tied to food, and we've got that going too, but there is something to be said for arranging the season so that it is better able to help you do what it's there to do to begin with.

So, adios Facebook. See you in late April or early May.

1 comment:

  1. I went to see Lauren Winner speak at 2nd Presbyterian Church in Memphis (the author of Girl Meets God- a really great book)and she spent the entire hour talking about the church calender and how Christians would benefit from acknowledging it. If we as Christians are supposed to constantly be contemplating Christ and the gospel, it seems like it would be beneficial to pattern our daily living around the events, as you said, as a constant reminder. Plus, it seems too like the ritualistic aspect of it serves to really teach kids about the gospel- because they tie activities and ritual to the words and bible stories. Anyway, just wanted to say I really enjoyed your post! I hope you and your family have a blessed Lenten season.