I got a faint, vertical smudge on my forehead today.
Other than spending the first minute or so after receiving ashes, though, wondering how big, dark and obvious or not my cross was, today I tried to keep thinking about a line from Pope Benedict’s Lenten message.
This is what stuck out to me, via Amy Welborn’s blog:
Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person. Quite opportunely, an ancient hymn of the Lenten liturgy exhorts: “Utamur ergo parcius, / verbis cibis et potibus, / somno, iocis et arctius / perstemus in custodia – Let us use sparingly words, food and drink, sleep and amusements. May we be more alert in the custody of our senses.”
Namely, I realized for perhaps the first time that key aspect of freely chosen detachment. I never get that far when I fast (which isn’t often, probably for this reason); instead of being led to deeper prayer, an awareness of self-control over my literal appetites, renunciation of earthly pleasures or dependence on Christ, I’m very aware that I’m hungry, I have a headache, I’m irritable, and ohhhh Wendy’s looks so good right now (while flying past it on the way back from the tailor’s after work) and ohhhh there’s Dunkin Donuts right next door. It’s never really occurred to me to try to move beyond those things, so instead, for the past four Lents I’ve dreaded fasting and seen it as nothing more as pain, some quasi-masochistic sacrifice we hardcore Catholics inflict on ourselves in order to feel like Lent means something.
Ok, caveat: there have been times when I’ve turned to fasting as intercession for someone else — want to really kick it up a notch, I’ve figured, give up food. Now that is hardcore. God’s gotta hear that. And He has. But fasting in order to “freely choose to detachment myself from the pleasure of food” — that seems different.
On a related note, Luke will not let me forget this, but I have appreciated going to the Traditional Latin Mass on and off over the past month, mainly because it has better prepared me for Lent. I appreciated seeing a priest in purple (but still wearing lace, he pointed out eagerly) telling me for a couple weeks that Lent was right around the corner and, what is more, that it can really be a time of great spiritual growth. I honestly wasn’t planning on putting too much into Lent this year, but his homilies got me thinking — how serious am I about encountering Christ? To what lengths will I go to meet Him, to be transformed by Him and to bring others with me?
Sure, I could’ve gotten those homilies at a Novus Ordo; maybe all the other priests at our regular parish were saying the same thing except for the one who would happen to say the Mass we attended. But I still appreciate the season of … um [fill in the blank] … for reasons mentioned above. Lent in no way has caught me by surprise this year.
And that is all my Lent-related thoughts to share for now. Let’s keep each other in our prayers — that we really will take advantage of these 40 days as the great gift they are to the Church.