The Bright Maidens are back to Live Lent!
Welcome back ladies, we've missed writing with you!
Our Heavenly Father... longs to convince us of his passionate love for each one of us, that relentless mercy which calls - and enables - us to share his own divine life, that fiery outpouring of love... Let's face it, we humans really don't want God to love us that much. It's simply too demanding. Obedience is one thing, but this sort of love clearly calls for more than keeping commandments. It calls for nothing less than total self-donation. That might not be a difficult job for the three infinite Persons of the Trinity, but for creatures like us, such love is a summons to martyrdom. This invitation requires much more suffering and self-denial than simply giving up chocolate for Lent. It demands nothing less than a constant dying to self.
-Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, page 18
When I was "growing up" (as in, through college!), I never really took the "Give up something for Lent" thing very seriously.
That wasn't completely honest. I never really took Lent seriously.
That wasn't completely honest either. I never really took the whole "Living the Catholic Faith" thing seriously.
Anyway, I thought Lent was just another part of the Church year where you just chug-chug-chugged along until you got to wear your brand new dress at Easter.
Like that time I gave up dessert... I started eating my cake before dinner. Appetizers, anyone? I get points for creativity, right?
|Christ of St. John of the Cross|
by Salvador Dali
Thankfully, I've grown to learn that Lent is not just another part of the Church year. It is the Church year.
It is through Lent that we truly live out the Christian life. Suffering and sacrifice and wandering in the spiritual desert with Christ? Yes. We are all called to walk the way of the Cross.
But like at the end of Lent, we are also told that through our suffering and sacrifice and spiritual dryness, we will encounter joy and love through the Cross and ultimately with the Resurrection.
We aren't called to just chug through Lent for 40 days. We are called to live it... each and every day. Yes, the entire year!
Since I started taking Lent - and, well, this whole living Catholic thing - seriously, sacrifice and suffering for me has been focused on giving up attachments that are in some way keeping me from giving a complete gift of self to God and others. It's about giving up things that distract me and get in the way of being who I am called to be.
Here's my Lenten routine...
Give up chocolate. Chocolate and I have a very... special relationship.
... and that's putting it mildly! All I can say is, Bless the poor souls who get to put up with me when I go all cold turkey without my chocolate.
Chocolate is an addiction for me. I crave it. I need it. I have torn apart my kitchen looking for it before. I don't know what it is, but there are times that it controls me. And after I give into the craving, I always feel a little bit sad, because I didn't have the self-control to say no!
So by giving it up for Lent, I am working on my self-control, which Lord knows is something I need... desperately. And not just with chocolate.
Give up the drinks. I love milk. I enjoy juice. I like a beer every now and then. I hate water. Hate it. It's so... boring! Seriously, something that is that good for you should at least have a taste!
So, for Lent I'm giving up all drinks except for water (and I make an exception for milk on my cereal... girl needs her multi-grain Cheerios, mkay?!).
In addition to giving up chocolate, only drinking water helps me put some focus on not just my spiritual health, but also my physical health. My body is a temple for the Holy Spirit! After I receive the Eucharist, I am physically carrying Christ to the world! I know that I sometimes put so much effort into my spiritual workout that I just put my body to the side, but I have to remember that this body is a gift from God, and needs nurtured just like everything else.
Listen only to Christian music. I wrote about how I love my little musical guilty pleasures. I actually don't really find anything wrong with non-Christian music, but I do find something wrong with how I let it affect me sometimes.
I love love love music and how it speaks to me, but there are times when my guilty pleasures feed into my state of life - I'm talking loneliness, impatience, and lack of trust. Listening to a lot of this music (ahem, maybe mostly TSwizzle Diggity Dawg) brings all of these emotions to the forefront - even when I was feeling perfectly fine before! - and just lets that longing for wanting to be loved and cared for by another surface and bubble over. And this is when the emotional chastity goes out the door and the pity party begins.
By listening only to Christian music (or music that reminds me of God), it helps me shift that desire for another to my longing for The Other, as in God. It leads my heart and mind to be more focused in prayer, and I have to say that of all the things I've ever sacrificed, this has been the most fruitful for me in building a stronger spiritual life. It also reminds me why I struggle so much with loneliness, impatience, and lack of trust - because the desire I have for loving another is a good thing! But it also reminds me that I have to have patience, which again, Lord knows I need!
Some of you might be thinking, "Uh Liesl, did you not read your own book excerpt that you put at the beginning? Lent is more than just giving up chocolate!" And you would be right!
So, what do we do with all these little sufferings and sacrifices? OFFER IT UP!
This is a concept that evaded me until a couple of years ago, but think about it... What did Christ do? Whine that he had to die on the Cross? H--- to the NO!
He offered it up for each and every one of us, in atonement for our sins. We are invited to join with his sacrifice by offering up our sacrificial splinters to be a part of his cross.
I offer up each of my sacrifices and sufferings for something very close to my heart, each and every time. But you can offer it up for anyone or anything you want - just don't waste your suffering!
... Even if you are just suffering over not being able to chomp on a piece of chocolate!