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Thoughts on the Joys of Lent

Greetings, respected bloggers and all readers of my journal.

This is apparently the translation of the first line of Boris Gryzlov's first blog post. I thought it was kind of fabulous.

Lent has kicked off over here, with the elimination of Distractions from my diet. I'm limiting internet use. I no longer listen to podcasts at work, except those provided by Ancient Faith Radio, which are sometimes a bit hit or miss. Novels are out till Pascha. I love this time of year. Love it, love it, love it, love it.

A lot of non-Christians (or non-fasting Christians) think that Lent is about austerity, sadness, repentance in the sackcloth-and-ashes sense, and giving up. I really don't feel that way about it. I think it's about forming good spiritual habits, having a season of contemplation, pausing in daily life to reflect on the world and God and the things that we actually do and should do. It's the perfect way to welcome Spring (and we're having an early Spring here - magnolias and daffs are blooming already). Why? Because you just pay so much more attention when the other distractions are taken out of your way. Repentance yes, but repentance is positive! It's the housecleaning of the soul, and the more you do it, the nicer your internal environment becomes. If you're just concentrating on how awful you are and how awful everything is, what's the point? How self-defeating! I just cannot believe in a God who wants us to be miserable. Repentance - turning towards God - is simply reconnecting with our true natures, which can't help but make us happier in the long run.

Maybe I say all of this mostly because we throw an awfully good party at the end of all of this. But to be honest, we throw great parties throughout Lent, too. Presanctified Liturgy only ever happens during Lent, and it is one of the most beautiful services on Earth. Afterwards, there is food, which is much appreciated since no one has eaten since noon. That meal is the most powerful community-building opportunity of the whole year. The group is small, everyone is happy, lots of people are content because they confessed before the service, and there is a lot of talk of the most supportive kind.

Lent is very much a part of the rhythm of my life and of the year. I had a particularly fruitful Lent last year (something which can never really be predicted), which gave me the strength and wherewithal to cope with a spiritually and emotionally damaging year. This year, my fasting in terms of food is going to be incomplete simply by the nature of the year I'm having. We're going to California for what will probably be my grandfather's last birthday (he's in hospice care now). The Fam is mainly Catholic and will want to see me and celebrate me, as most of them haven't seen me for three years. My confessor has told me that I should try to keep the fast insofar as possible on Wednesdays and Fridays, and that shouldn't be too terribly difficult (my grandparents, at least, wouldn't dream of eating meat on a Lenten Wednesday or Friday). But fasting is more than a series of rules about what one does and does not eat. It's an internal state as well; the food rules are extremely, extremely helpful, but they are not in themselves fasting.

Fr. Alexei, my childhood priest, used to preach annually about the three pillars of the season: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent is a time to remember that lacking heart for the hungry person you pass on the street, (whether or not you can help them) makes your heart smaller, harms them, and harms the world. Judging another person makes your heart smaller, harms the other person, and harms the world. I need reminders of this more than I like to think, because some nasty part of me loves to talk trash, loves to complain, loves to take jabs at anyone I feel has hurt or wronged me.

And I am not a great pray-er outside of church hours. I am far too lazy, really.

Andy Williams would probably disagree, but to me this is really the most wonderful time of the year. I hope all of you take a little time to enjoy the beauties of the season, spend a little more time with the people you love, and try to remember how lucky you are. Then, whether you are Christian or Pagan or atheist, you will understand just why I love this great season.