To Crack the Frozen Earth
By C.J. Williams - San Juan Capistrano, California, USA - 22 March 2013
Lent always meant death to me. No, it wasn’t grieving, or even a miserable season. But it was grey. The numbness of a shroud. The turning away. It meant looking down and being or acting depressed, and it meant dredging up all the abject and inexcusable things I’d done or known or seen in the world.
It meant focusing on the negative to me -- and I always felt, no, I believed that was the whole of it. Look ahead to Death! O Death, let’s see and feel your sting. Sit right here in -- what was really sticky ashy self-pity -- and then look forward to Death, and more self-recrimination, self-pity, misery. For underneath it, a little neurotic part of myself said it was all my fault, and I ought to be able to change it, if I were really worth anything.
Lent. Self-inflicted and self-absorbed. But most particularly, dead.
Which is strange, at the root, because it is Christmas, and Advent, in which we wait in irredeemed dark, or Christless death -- in a dead winter world while days get deeper with darkness, and shorter in cold. It is Advent that is full of the silence and chill of a world dying, cold both in season and for lack of Life and Love. It is Advent, and even after Christmas, which though they herald a hope, and wonder, have not yet returned to us our freedom; not yet.
Yet when Lent comes, Winter will soon be waning. Lent comes as days lengthen, and spring prods and peers in at the dawn. Lent comes when Christ is grown, and is out on hilltops and in the cities, proclaiming the Good News. The command and fulfillment of a new covenant are cracking the frozen Earth.
Lent comes not looking towards Death, no, not even looking towards mere hope -- no, Lent comes with the trumpets of total and fulfilling salvation; new life; absolute abolition of self-struck misery, the muddy sin-spitty self-pity and fear. This is the defeat of Death. His Birth was only a precursor, a hint to our own re-birth if we follow him through -- His Birth, which reclothes our humanity in divinity.
I thought Lent was about being a blob, a stick in the mud. Alone, without a true connection to a God Who Loves Us, the weight of Death -- I wrestled with it, and gave up. I looked at God as far off, and as punishing. And Lent was the time to fix it all, in that peculiarly human topsy-turvy pride -- the pride that says I am the very worst, I am misery, and thus I have excuse to complain or hide or do nothing.
This is not Lent. This is the world, untouched by Lent. This is the despair, still masked, not subjected to the brilliant glare of the desert and the 40 days turned bold-faced towards God. This is a lie.
For Lent is about joy. Lent is about action -- which is why we pray, and give alms, and take on a sacrifice, or habit-forming service; not to misery ourselves, to change ourselves from mud-huggers to dawn-seekers; to raise our eyes from dust to daylight. The days grow longer as the Son travels the countryside, speaking the Word of God; the Word He speaks, the Word He is, the Word He fulfills. And he loves those who listen, and turn towards it. He loves us before we can ever understand the radiance of the season, before we ever love ourselves.