Friday, April 22, 2011

Lent for Losers

Another Lent has drawn to a close, another year's forty days of self-abnegation, self-denial, and self-emptying, during which, as in other years, I have barely shown up.  Usually I tell myself that I don't really need to give up anything for Lent, but, rather, to commit to a more devout and rigorous prayer practice, and then I've ended up doing neither.  I started off this Lent, for instance, saying a modified version of the daily office, but that fell by the wayside somewhere.  I also thought I should try to stop swearing (which, for what it's worth, I only do when I'm in a room by myself or inside of my own head -- well, mostly, anyway), but on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, I found myself starting my morning by eating a brownie for breakfast and dropping the F-bomb.  And so it went.  Every day for forty days I did something somewhere on the scale from neurotic to egregious. And I generally only said the entire rosary when I woke up in the middle of the night, as I often do, because it's a surefire way for me to get back to sleep.

This year, as in years past, I sought to rationalize my lack of effort by telling myself that because I was dealing with some difficult things in my life on a daily basis (my mother's fatal illness, my son's autistic behavior), I didn't need to impose other penances on myself (in other years, it was other difficult things: recurrent miscarriages, moving away from New York, or what have you).  Tonight I went to Stations of the Cross for the first time this whole year.  I also went to confession for the first time since the week before Christmas.  And my confession was as trite as it possibly could have been:  that I had had a bad Lent, and that it was through my own lack of effort, as well as through shifting the blame for my sinfulness onto other people and situations.  This was particularly embarrassing, since I feel sincerely penitent concerning my grave sins, and have no trouble owning them.  It's the small sins -- my daily fecklessness, pettiness, selfishness, and cruelty -- that I would deny with my dying breath if I could.

Tonight Otepoti (who, quite wonderfully, is visiting me from her home in what she calls the ass-end of the world) and I had a discussion about sin.  We were talking, specifically, about whether committing bad acts made one essentially bad, while, conversely, committing good acts made one essentially good.  Otepoti wisely observed that we are all essentially bad -- which dovetailed nicely with a realization I had the other day that we are, also, all essentially disabled.  Only God is good.  Only God is sound, only God is whole. And it is only -- only -- through His mercy that we are saved from our own neuroses, pettinesses, and egregiousness.

We are all losers.  That is why, at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.  That is why we need Him.  That is why we cling to Him, why we celebrate His death and resurrection.  To paraphrase another wise woman, if it wasn't for Jesus, we'd all be bad.

A blessed Triduum and Happy Easter and much love to you all.


Sally Thomas said...

My efforts tend to fall by the wayside, too -- not just Lenten ones, but in too many things I tend to be a great starter, and a great thinker-about, and not a finisher.

This Lent has felt massively off-kilter, maybe because it was so late and felt so un-seasonal -- but also, of course, because I'm one of the losers.

Still offering all my Masses for your intentions, however (that I have managed to remember to do). A blessed Easter to you.

Pentimento said...

Sally, thank you. I really believe that it's only through the grace of God and the prayers of my friends that I'm still standing.

MrsDarwin said...

A blessed Easter to you as well, Pentimento, and give my best to Otepoti.

priest's wife said...

I posted a great sermon from St John Chrysostom yesterday- basically, he is saying that who fasted well- who didn't fast that well- still EVERYONE must rejoice at Easter!

Christ is risen!

Pentimento said...

He is risen indeed!

Cat, I will give your regards to Otepoti.

Karen E. said...

I'm a loser, too. I had to focus very intently this Lent on a renewal of gratitude for all I've been given. I have to say it was a very fruitful practice but I also have to say that I'm glad we losers have Christ to turn to, because the abyss is so enormous and I teeter so close to its edge so often.

Happy Octave of Easter, Pentimento.