Well, I am not doing that well. I don’t just mean at blogging. I mean with the Lenten thing. The attached picture shows someone’s loving attempt to use insulation tape to reattach an angel’s wings.
I reckon I need some remedial Lenten tape.
I have been reflecting on Lenten disciplines, the ones that make me a better disciple. Or don’t. My standard giving up of coffee comes with some pretty head-hurting consequences, but I am wondering about those things that really create in me “a new and contrite heart.” This season’s wondering might come from a certain different rhythm and desire – less Gregorio Allegri’s ‘Miserere Mei Deus’ and more Lucinda Williams, ‘Get Right with God.’ I guess the later is better in the car – and I am doing plenty of time in the car, so that must explain it.
Scripture warns about speaking about such things – it is easy to sound like a horrid skite (Matthew 6). Not even Microsoft, which is pretty tolerant in ethical matters, likes skites – it underlines the disapproval in red. (For those who are unaware ‘skite’ is an Australasian term that refers to someone who is a show-off.)
I am also particularly aware that one of the problems with the standard bits of Lenten denial is that, however secretly undertaken, they can end up being a pretty narcissistic pleasure as I think how virtuous I am being. It becomes all about “me.” I am impressed with friends and family who are soon doing the Oxfam 100K walk because it is about others.
The purpose of Lenten discipline is, of course, to prepare for Easter. One of the things I am enjoying at the moment is teaching a course on the Triduum, the Great Three Days. Part of the fun of it is reflecting on the way in which Christians have refined and defined the way individuals and communities are to prepare for Easter. Quite the best quiet chuckle has been the idea of the bishop having to hold down the Cross in the Good Friday liturgy. Before today I have had to carry the Cross on Good Friday but not hold one down. The following eye witness account appears from about 380 C.E.
The bishop’s chair is placed on Golgotha Behind the Cross (the cross there now), and he takes his seat. A table is placed before him with a cloth on it, the deacons stand round, and there is brought to him a gold and silver box containing the holy Wood of the Cross. It is opened, and the Wood of the Cross and the Title are taken out and placed on the table.
As long as the holy Wood is on the table, the bishop sits with his hands resting on either end of it and holds it down, and the deacons round him keep watch over it. They guard it like this because what happens now is that all the people, catechumens as well as faithful, come up one by one to the table. They stoop down over it, kiss the Wood, and move on.
The deep irony in all this is the sheer folly that we can devise some method to garner the kind of stuff we need to be able to raise the Easter shout. This irony is a forever fault line in all our disciplines. Not that we can set such disciplines completely aside, but we can’t cling too tightly to them as if holiness is really obtained by right methodology or dint of our effort. Any effort will ultimately be as feeble as insulation tape holding a lichen covered plaster wing in place. So, I keep praying, “Create in me a new and contrite heart.”
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.