It’s that time of year again. The time of year when I regret not having been harder on myself, when I’m disappointed that the season of subdued quiet and intense introspection is coming to an end. Like Winter, I enjoy Lent and always feel, as it ebbs inexorably away, that I didn’t do it justice.
All of the Winter’s snow has melted into my little spot of Earth to feed the new green growth of Spring. I miss the snow, but mostly because I’m afraid that we didn’t get enough of it, and the trees, grasses, and flowers will struggle from a lack of hydration. I’m afraid that my soul, too, will struggle from a lack of hydration, because my Lenten sacrifices were rather paltry. In the last week, a brief snow shower covered the ground with white, and I also made some last-minute attempts to purify my soul. Both were fleeting. But I needn’t worry. After the season of snow comes the season of rain, for Our Creator did not design life to be so neatly boxed. The whole of my life is filled with opportunities for quiet introspection, for self-giving sacrifice, for the renewal of my spirit and the purification of my soul. Purification, after all, is the work of God Himself, and I am completely in His hands.
What we will be commemorating this upcoming week is not about what I do — what I have done or will do in the future — it’s about what God does. Holy Week is about what God has done, is doing, and will do for each and every one of us because of who God is. God is love. God loves you and me infinitely and intimately, giving Himself totally and completely to us in love so that we may love Him too. In loving God truly, we are able to love ourselves, our neighbor, and all of God’s beautiful Creation in the fulfillment of real joy. This is the life that Christ offers us. Being a Christian means that I accept, that I strive to do and say everything that I do and say for the love of God. I give myself over to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I will, of course, mess up. I will fall short of the ideal, I will fail miserably in what I intend to do for love, and, most of the time, I will not even think about God. That’s what forgiveness is for. Not being God ourselves, but rather images of God, we are imperfect creatures. So, for us, love comes in and flows out through the door of forgiveness. God established that door by living among us in the flesh, and then opened that door through His passion, death, and resurrection. The Paschal Mystery is the portal of mercy, opened wide for every sinner — for each and every human being — but it can only be found by those who seek it. “Seek and you shall find,” Christ tells us. “Knock and the door shall be opened for you.”
Lent is the season of seeking, a 40 day long daily discipline to remember, not only how to knock, but also that we need that door of mercy. We begin the season with ashes on our foreheads and the reminder that our mortal lives are dust and to dust they shall return. We then undertake a serious examination of conscience to recognize and acknowledge the fact that we are sinners. Taking up little sacrifices, mortifications, further gets it through our thick heads that we are sinners, that we are a mess, that we are in need of divine assistance, which inspires us to look for mercy from God. In seeking we find, and divine love comes through. We put others ahead of ourselves through concentrated, widespread acts of charity, thereby practicing to make habitual how we are called to live every day. Acknowledging our failings, turning to God for assistance, and receiving His merciful love, we naturally love others as divine love flows through us.
This is the life of a Christian. It is not just for Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. It’s every day in every season. We will even experience resurrection joy in the midst of fasting because Winter doesn’t keep us from enjoying the beauty of the Earth. We will even experience somber quietude in the midst of an Easter celebration because reflection, conversion, and renewal are essential to living our human lives fully.
I’m looking forward to Holy Week this year with a newly deepened sense of who Christ is, what Christ does, and how much I need Him. In order to love fully, truly, practically, and eternally I need to walk through the door of mercy. That door is Christ. Through Him, love flows in living water and life blooms abundantly, without end.
© 2019 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.