A Fast of Frailty

Photo by Mario Giambattista

Lent began yesterday.  For myself, it was ushered in with snow, stress, and rejection of sweets.

Lent is a time for reflection and contemplation.  It is a time for removing as much “noise” from one’s life as possible in order to listen all the more closely to God.  It is a time for fasting from some earthly pleasures (most commonly food) in order to “feast” all the more on the Word of God.  It is a time for remembering our frailty before the mighty triumph of the cross.

This Lent I am especially aware of the fragility of life and the frailty of the human soul.  It has been a difficult year for me.  A year of confronting the limitations of man.

I am a newly-wed and though I love being married, it has brought a new awareness of the brokenness of mankind.  As my new husband and I learn to love one another sacrificially, we realize how much self-centeredness still resides within us.  And as we struggle to move above our own needs to be more concerned with the needs of the other, I realize just how needy we all are.

My mother is in the hospital with a rather serious condition.  It is shocking to me that my mother, who is usually one of the most active people I know, is confined to a bed and an IV drip.  10 days ago she was a flurry of energy and now her body is forcing her to lay still.  Suddenly my whole family is confronted with the fragility of life.

This winter feels like one of the longest I’ve ever experienced.  The rain and the snow just keep coming.  The bitter cold blows through my scarf into the tiny opening of my coat collar.  I struggle to stand upright against the wind some days.  I have literally seen the sun only once in the last two weeks.  As the skies stay closed and foreboding, it is easier to feel the metaphorical heavens closed as well.

For Lent this year, I am giving up meat and sweets.  I have never chosen an especially unique Lenten fast.  I prefer the traditional fasts because I like to think about the community of saints through history and throughout the world today joining in the same fast.  But even with these lofty aims for observing the fast, I feel silly admitting how actually difficult it is for me to give up sweets.  They are my tiny rewards in the midst of a long day.  A cup of hot chocolate (with a cookie on the side) at the end of a tiring day brings an embarrassing amount of pleasure.  Giving up even these small luxuries feels almost like pain to me.  Realizing this makes me feel humbler, smaller, weaker, and just plain sillier than I would ever like to think of myself.

Though all of these things are wearying to both my body and my soul, that is the purpose of Lent.  To bring us to a place of admitting once again that we are nothing on our own.  Our bodies and our souls are much too weak to bring about our own uplifting.  It is only through focusing on the lifting up of the body of one Man that we can find strength or joy in our utter frailty, fragility and weakness.

Unfortunately I do not reside in a parish from which I could receive the Office of the Ashes.  So even though my head remained unmarred, I carry with me every day the searing of the cross on my heart this Lenten season.

And I am eagerly looking forward to opening the tomb and celebrating the life and warmth that it could not contain.