Beliefs Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

The Ash Wednesday Mormon

Mormons and LentI love Ash Wednesday.

I love getting the ashes placed on my forehead, a startling reminder each time I catch myself in the mirror that what awaits this body is death.

I love the entire Lenten season, a time of penitence and reflection, and the community of people that observe it. “What are you giving up?” we ask each other. “What are you doing this year, and why?”

But until very recently, there’s been little intersection between what I sacrifice during Lent with the wider Christian church and what I do within my own church, because Mormons traditionally have ignored Lent entirely. In fact, on Ash Wednesday last year I wrote:

Mormons persist in a stubborn optimism that rarely dwells on pain or suffering. Sometimes, this relentless cheer is one of the things I like most about my religion; we are a people who look on the bright side and are not cowed by difficult circumstances.

At other times it makes me crazy. It is ironic that Mormonism—the same religion that says Christ’s atonement was accomplished not only on the cross, but also in the Garden of Gethsemane—is averse to any depiction of the reality of Christ’s pain. In our churches you will not only never see a crucifix depicting the actual crucifixion of Jesus, but rarely even an empty cross to represent his resurrection.

But rumblings in various pockets of Mormondom suggest I’m not the only Latter-day Saint who finds our cheerful omission of Christ’s suffering strange, even theologically impoverished. Last year I began noticing, anecdotally, more Latter-day Saints giving Lent a try. Many were interested in the idea of giving up something for six weeks — a favorite food, a questionable habit. And while self-improvement has never been the goal of Lent, I can see how Mormonism’s love of self-improvement can provide a “way in” for Latter-day Saints to stay open-minded about the Lenten season. It’s a start, anyway.

Still, I was pleasantly surprised this morning to find that LDS Living magazine is offering a feature story on “6 Ways Mormons Can Enjoy the Spirit of Lent.” Lent is gaining a little more traction in the orthodox LDS community.

The “six ways” begin by emphasizing the sort of self-improvement regimen that I’ve been seeing, but then graduate to something deeper:

  1. Give up something bad for you (Facebook, junk food, TV).
  2. Take up something good for you (Family Home Evening, daily scripture study).
  3. Repent. For reals. Whether it’s a quiet personal reconciliation with Christ or it also includes a full-on confession to the bishop, Lent is a season to work through whatever is separating you from God.
  4. Have a “sacrifice meal,” some humble and simple meal like plain rice. Donate the money you would have spent on more sumptuous food to the poor.
  5. Decorate your table and your home with purple to mark the season. Purple is the liturgical color of Lent, so the article suggests that every time we see that purple tablecloth we’ve brought out especially for this season, we think about Christ’s sacrifice.
  6. Focus on Christ’s atonement for a few minutes each day.

“The point of observing Lent—however you decide to do it—is to find more meaning in the Easter season and draw closer to Christ,” the article notes.

AMEN TO THAT. Getting to Easter in a more meaningful way is the whole point. And that means we cannot ignore Christ’s suffering.

I noticed in some of the comments on my Ash Wednesday post last year that some Mormons can be adamant about not wanting to dwell on suffering. It’s not called the Great Plan of Happiness for nothing, said one reader. The idea seemed to be that Christ suffered so we would not have to, so why would we turn that on its head?

Here’s an answer, and it comes from our own scriptures: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11, Book of Mormon). We re-enact Christ’s suffering during Lent because without going through at least an iota of his misery, there is no joy of Easter. We will not understand it.

Later today, I will receive the ashes on my forehead and be told I am dust and to dust I will return. For six weeks I will live as if this were true. It will certainly feel true, because life is suffering.

But then Easter will come, and I will understand anew that There Is Something More. Yes, what awaits this body is death, but also life everlasting.

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

29 Comments

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  • I am a little surprised! There is little to no outward evidence of liturgical spirit that I can see within the LDS Church(aside from what goes on in temples). It has been my impression that anything remotely traditionally Christian is to be avoided. This is great! Welcome to the season of Lent.
    I have found as I’ve grown older that Easter, and Lent leading up to it, is a far better holiday than anything else on the calendar. The one with the most meaning for me. Yes, we are reminded of great suffering and pain, but we are also reminded of the great joy and happiness that comes from the ashes.

  • I love this! We are active Mormons with children attending a Catholic school. I am a reformed/recovering/cultural Catholic and Lent has always been part of our family tradition. I do not receive the ashes at Mass, but my children do. We love having a period of time set aside to focus on the Easter season and to find a way to be a little better. Some of my children choose to abstain from something during Lent (typically the younger ones), but we love it when they decide to DO something. We’ve caught flack from ward members for “celebrating” Lent, but it has only served to deepen our spirituality and our relationship with God and Jesus Christ.

  • Great article. I’m an active member who went to Catholic school and found a lot of wisdom and beauty in the traditions there. Any member of the church who would give another member flack for celebrating Lent simply does not understand how the gospel works.

  • I like your ideas on creating a more spiritual experience for Easter! I have been struggling for the last few years to find more meaningful ways to celebrate Easter.

  • This misrepresents Mormon belief with the statement that the LDS church “is averse to any depiction of the reality of Christ’s pain,” implying that is the reason for the absence of crosses on/in/at LDS chapels and other meetinghouses. In fact, aversion to recognition of suffering is not the case. Rather, the cross is not a feature of LDS architecture, decor, and adornment “because the Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith” (https://www.lds.org/topics/cross). Yet the meaning of the cross is ever-present in our faith (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2011/07/the-meaning-of-the-cross-for-latter-day-saints).

    I enjoy this column’s aim of appreciating beauty in traditions of other Christian faiths, but it attempts to do so by inaccurately depicting LDS beliefs — even gross misstatements — on pain and suffering. For example, the author finds Mormons’ “cheerful omission of Christ’s suffering strange, even theologically impoverished.” There is no omission of Christ’s suffering, thereby making Riess’ descriptions of “cheerful” and “theologically impoverished” non-starters and completely misleading.

    The LDS church has produced quite vivid depictions of His suffering, as in “The Lamb of God” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mha9nKaPHjU). And the LDS belief in Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane focuses on and gives meaning to His suffering in a very personal and real way, unique from any other Christian denomination. He took upon Himself our sins, infirmities, and other physical, emotional, and spiritual pains in the Garden to He could know how to succor us, so His Atonement could satisfy all demands.

    Omission of physical symbols does not make a void of acknowledgement, shallowness of feeling, or an impoverishment of theology. Similarly, appreciation of beauty in other traditions does not require misrepresentations or false reductions of another.

  • I’m sorry, but this is silly. I live in the heart of Mardi Gras country, and although the local parades were semi-fun, the thought of debauchery (eg New Orleans, Brazil) to start a period of repentance is just silly. Let’s look at the six ideas given to take up for Lent:

    Give up something bad for you. – Shouldn’t this be 24/7/365?

    Take up something good for you. – Shouldn’t this be 24/7/365?

    Repent. – Shouldn’t this be 24/7/365?

    Have a “sacrifice meal,” some humble and simple meal like plain rice. Donate the money you would have spent on more sumptuous food to the poor. – Don’t members of the LDS Church do this every first Sunday of every month?

    Decorate your table and your home with purple to mark the season. Purple is the liturgical color of Lent, so the article suggests that every time we see that purple tablecloth we’ve brought out especially for this season, we think about Christ’s sacrifice. – Okay, may this one is a new concept.

    Focus on Christ’s atonement for a few minutes each day. – Should we do this in each and every prayer, each and every day, 365 days a year?

    Here is what I think I might give up for Lent- Flunking Sainthood.

  • With the exception of a handful of Sundays set apart for general and stake conferences, members of the LDS church focus on Christ’s sufferings, atonement, resurrection and His love for us each week during the sacrament. Scripture tells us that we should be offering up our “oblations,” to Him. That would be the equivalent of what is done during the Lenten season. In effect, we celebrate Easter every week, almost without fail. I think Lent is a beautiful idea and wouldn’t fault anyone for participating no matter what their religion. But let’s not suppose that members of the LDS church aren’t leading up to Easter in a meaningful way. If we are doing it correctly, our season of Lent lasts all year long.

  • Wow, that’s was a worthwhile and helpful comment, or not. What gives?

    Now let’s be honest for as second

    Give up something bad for you. – Shouldn’t this be 24/7/365?
    – Really, you give up a new “something bad” EVERY HOUR?? And you’re still not perfect? Honestly, how many times per year do you pick a concrete, specific shortcoming and wholeheartedly dedicate yourself to giving it up?

    Take up something good for you. – Shouldn’t this be 24/7/365?
    – Sure, but is it?? Really?? Maybe for one as righteous as you, but for 90% of us normal mormons, we don’t start a NEW good thing every hour, or every month even. So to do so specifically for this special season, it’s a great idea.

    Repent. – Shouldn’t this be 24/7/365?
    – Again, we should, but how many of us do? And you’ll notice it goes deeper. This isn’t about the normal nightly “forgive my sins” kind of of repentance. This is about the fasting and prayer, dedicated, whole heart repentance that few of us really indulge in more than occasionally. Should we, yes, but we don’t.

    Have a “sacrifice meal,” some humble and simple meal like plain rice. Donate the money you would have spent on more sumptuous food to the poor. – Don’t members of the LDS Church do this every first Sunday of every month?
    – yea, I thought this one was a bit common place for most of us.

    Focus on Christ’s atonement for a few minutes each day. – Should we do this in each and every prayer, each and every day, 365 days a year?
    – I know, I’ve already said it. We should, but DO we? Why is Christmas such a special and spiritual time of year? It’s because we spend a month doing the stuff we should do all year. The whole point here is to make Easter a SEASON just like Christmas is.

    Here is what I think I might give up for Lent- Flunking Sainthood
    – Fantastic. If this is the sort of value you bring to the table, I hope you stick to this one even after lent is over.

  • “Omission of physical symbols does not make a void of acknowledgement, shallowness of feeling, or an impoverishment of theology.”

    Then can we PLEASE do away with garments?

  • This is a very cool thing to me. Last year was the first time I’d ever really practiced a Lenten observance and I think it was really cool. Also, I added during Holy Week that I would go to other churches and worship with them. On Thursday I went to a Greek Orthodox Church (since the Holy Weeks aligned for Eastern and Western Christianity last year) for the Matins of the Twelve Gospels service. That was really cool. On Good Friday I went to a United Methodist Church for a Tenebrae service where they removed all the vestments from the altars and so forth. On Saturday night, I went to the Easter Vigil at a Catholic Church. It was a really awesome week. I’d wonder if other folk could find benefit in doing something like that?

    Finally, the talk about decorating ones home in purple reminds me of a funny story. In 2013 around Christmas time I’d just finished my first semester in my Master of Divinity program at United Seminary. I came into church one Sunday during Advent, though, yes, I am LDS so I realize that I’m probably the only person in the Ward that day who knew it was Advent, and we had some really beautiful blue and silver wreaths hanging on the wall on both sides of the pulpit. I remember thinking “wow, those wreaths are pretty cool….bu..bu..but they’re blue…the Advent color is purple…ahhhhhh.”

    But should we change the colors in our house to Pink for Laetare Sunday?

    Anyway, yes, I think a Lenten observance is great. I find anything that brings me closer to God and Jesus Christ to be really good.

  • I think the author makes some assumptions that are not true. First off comparing the LDS church with the “wider Christian church” is misleading. As a youth I lived in 6 different towns in 3 different states, I attended Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist churches where ever I lived. The only thing I knew about Lent was the Catholics put ash on their foreheads and my school lunches on friday were cheese pizza or fish sticks. So where is this “wider Christian church”. The LDS are by no means the only ones who don’t celebrate Lent.
    Second the author states “We re-enact Christ’s suffering during Lent because without going through at least an iota of his misery, there is no joy of Easter.” Does this mean I need to re-enact the crucifixion? I always thought the true suffering happened in Gethsemane. I also thought repentance included feeling Godly sorrow for our sins, isn’t that at least an iota of his misery? Maybe I should just try to truly repent during Lent.
    Finally the author says the ash represents that we came from the dust and we will return to the dust because life is suffering. I am sorry she feels that way. Life will contain some suffering but to believe that life is suffering must be a terrible burden.

  • Kelly,

    Was this your reaction when President Hinckley challenged the church to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year? That it was a “silly” challenge because we should be doing it anyway? Is sacrament meeting “silly” because we should be focusing on the Savior 24/7? Is having a stake day in the temple “silly” because we should be going to the temple all the time already?

    This kind of arrogant and dismissive attitude towards the religious practices of others does not belong in the LDS (or any other) faith. You might want to consider giving that up for Lent.

  • Tejay and Fred,

    The point escapes both of you. It is not that we give up something bad every minute, but that we practice always doing good and never doing bad every day, all day. It is called putting off the carnal man and putting on the whole armor of God, and we should be anxiously engaged in it at all times.

    As for President Hinckley’s recommendation to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year, it is a sad commentary on how many were not already reading the Book of Mormon, and a challenge to change our ways. He did not say “I challenge you to read the Book of Mormon during Lent,” but rather, “get busy and read every day from (whatever the date was) so you can get it done by the end of the year.

    As for being dismissive of others’ religious practices, not at all. Rather, it was a reminder that the things recommended should be a part of our daily lives, not just during the 6 weeks of Lent. Of course we should applaud others who seek to better themselves, just as we should be doing. But shouldn’t it be a year-round effort?

    Perhaps President Hinckley’s invitation to bring what you have and see if we can add a little might be apropos at this juncture. We encourage the spirit of Lent, of course, but what would happen to our selves, family, friends, neighbors, communities, states, countries, indeed the world, if we took Lent to 52 weeks each year rather than just six?

  • Kelly,

    A lot of Catholics raise the same point and it’s a great question. Shouldn’t we be doing all of those things all the time?

    Of course we should. No question. If it helps, think of Lent like a training period in which a basketball team gets back to the fundamentals. The three pillars of Lent — fasting, almsgiving, and prayer — give us an opportunity to re-engage with our Faith.

    For me, Lent is a time to prayerfully reconsider my relationships — with other people and with God. I should be attending to them ALL of the time, but my natural tendency towards laziness means I miss the mark most of the time. The Church, in her wisdom, provides this time as a season of reflection and repentance.

    It might interest you to know a little of the history of Lent. In the early days of the Church, under the Roman persecution, new members were brought it at Easter. (It is still this way for adult converts.) They went through a period of prayer and training and during the 40 days before Easter they went through a final period of “purification and enlightenment”. Eventually the practice caught on with the wider Church as the faithful saw it as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the new converts and to renew their own Baptismal promises. If you’re interested, there’s a good article on this at:

    http://bustedhalo.com/questionbox/why-do-we-give-up-something-for-lent

    Finally, you might be wondering where we get the “40 days”. It is taken from Christ’s time in the desert as described in the book of Matthew. Lent allows us to share (in a small way) in the that experience and to contemplate His great love for us.

    I wish all of you a blessed Lenten season and pray that you grow closer to God through the experience.

  • I actually know a lot of Mormons that give something up for lent, myself included. I don’t know what happens in Utah but in Ohio it’s not something we talk about in Church but I know that a good number of us do it. And, Mormons are already paranoid and see everything outside the Church as an evil to be avoided (generally speaking – I know not all of us are like this) so those that don’t likely don’t know much about it or see it as another “evil” as it didn’t come from Utah leadership. Lastly, many fail to realize that David O. McKay is the reason we took the crosses down. He feared they were too Catholic and as a part of making us not look like hippies, we shaved our beards and took the crosses out of our buildings. There is nothing wrong with the Cross, I wear a Celtic Cross every day, even to the temple.

  • Well, duh. I don’t think the point escaped either of us. What you are proposing–that we should be doing this stuff all the time–is not a radical idea. It’s something that all religions teach fairly regularly, including Catholicism. It’s not about the point you were trying to make, it’s about how you expressed it. There are plenty of ways to communicate that without being dismissive (for instance, the way you expressed it in your response to our comments!). Please re-read your original comment. It opens with “I’m sorry, but this is silly”–as condescending an opening as could possibly be written. And the closing comment that you would like to give up Flunking Sainthood for Lent is dripping with disdain for an article that’s merely proposing additional ways we can grow closer to the Savior.

    I know many people who read this blog feel compelled to defend the church every time Jana, as a faithful but thinking-outside-the-box member, points out a potential flaw, but too often it just comes across as arrogance. And an unwillingness to acknowledge that we are not perfect.

    Anyway, I think Kevin Cummings’ response was much better than mine, so I’ll leave it at that.

  • Kelly,
    I’m so glad you helped me see the light. Yes, clearly I missed the point you were making…. oh, wait, I didn’t.
    I’ll assume, for a second, that you are actually doing these things every second of every day. So, for you, this lent idea is a waste. But please look around you. 95% of the active members I see each day don’t do this stuff all the time, myself included. For us, it is wonderfully helpful to have periods of reflection and re-dedication.

    Why do we have church weekly? Shouldn’t we be worshiping daily?
    Why do we ‘renew’ our covenants with the sacrament weekly? It’ is not as if those covenants go away once a week, they are eternal covenants.
    Why do we have family home evening? Shouldn’t we be teaching our family and spending time together every day?
    Why do we serve full-time missions? Aren’t we supposed to be missionaries every day of our lives?
    Have you never heard a single General Conference talk about ‘re-dedicating’ or ‘re-committing’? Why are such talks given, after all we shouldn’t need to re-dedicate ourselves, we should be always dedicated, right?

    You are the one missing the point. Lent isn’t about picking 40 days out of the year to do what we should do all year long. It isn’t an excuse to take the rest of the year off. A special commitment for those 40 days, does not require a total failure the rest of the year. That’s like saying that keeping the sabbath day holy is ‘silly’ because we should be living righteously all week long.

  • Jana: You consistently get aspects of my LDS faith wrong. I have seen pictures and depicitions and films and lessons of the crucifiction both embodied and empty of Jesus Christ in more states and countries and LDS meeting places than I can count. Every LDS library (in almost every Church) has many of these, as well as LDS magazines and books.

    The LDS chapels do not have graven images, but in the foryers and halls of our chapels there are images replete of the living and dying and resurrected Savior. I am disappointed in your Debbie Downer points of view.

    If you were the only window on the United States, for example, I believe most people would be headed to Russia. YOU GET SO MANY things twisted or out of proportion.

    Sorry, this article smacked of a lot of skewed negativism. I just had to stand up for a part of the faith I know and I have observed. Either you need to see more, look around more, or get a Debbie Downer adjustment. I cannot agree with your jaundiced indictments of Mormonism. You make good points at times, and research a bit, but I feel like I am getting a German history of Judaism from you. Not so credible.

    God bless and I hope you can see some things as not as negative as you portray them. Balderdash! Not enough suffering? Maybe the hope part needs some boosting? Christ lives.

  • I would have given more thought to Lent before if it wasn’t for Mardi Gras. Maybe I have it wrong but growing up simi-close to Louisiana it seems it was just and excuse to party while planning to repent for it later. That thought process to me makes a mockery of the Atonement. You can say it was the stumbling block that kept from even considering looking at lent seriously. Anyhow it was a good article and I’m trying to practice “holy envy “. So I’m trying lent out this year. Why not?

  • Thank you for sharing your personal experience with Lent. I hope it continues to bring you the peace and joy you seek. While I find everything I need in my own Faith, your words gave me a chance to reflect on my own faith and gain a better understanding of how the innate human needs you feel are satisfied through your observance of Lent are satisfied in me through my worship of Christ and His Atonement.

    All things point to Christ; the rising and setting of the sun, my laying down at night and arising in the morning, the celebration of the Christian Sabbath on the first day of the week, and particularly the weekly ordinance of the Sacrament–as you rightly point out. In these and other rituals I find all the opportunity I need to remember Christ’s perfect example and infinite Atonement. I fall far short of taking full advantage of the blessings available to me through the rituals I currently strive to observe. I have also found that when I feel something lacking in my life that it is not due to a lack of anything external (opportunity or the actions of others), but rather from my lack of personal piety.

    On a related note, I recently wondered why we traditionally celebrate most events on an annual basis. I was born on a Thursday so why shouldn’t I celebrate every Thursday or the 22nd of every month or the 3rd year of every decade or the evening hour of every day? Or, should I celebrate my own birth at all? I find no record of birthday parties in the word of God…

    I have also taken the time to do some brief research on the practice of Lent. I don’t find it mentioned in my Bible or taught in any of the recorded words of Christ. And, from my reading of the historical evolution of Lent that only the 40-day period is taken from scripture, the rest has evolved over time and included such things as blessing Easter eggs at certain times in its evolution. I feel there is a real danger in confusing traditional Christianity with Pure Christianity and mixing the teachings of man with the Word of God.

    I have also noticed that many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints enjoy the tradition of cinnamon rolls on conference weekends. I find this neither good nor evil, although there is no record of it in scripture. In my own family we make something called resurrection rolls on Easter Sunday. It is a fun tradition and an object lesson for the children. However, I hope that fun tradition never overshadows the very personal and deeply meaningful practice of recommitting myself each week to take Christ’s name on me, follow His commandments, and always remember Him in the simple yet infinitely powerful ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, when it is done according to the manner and by the authority Christ, himself, established.

    May God bless us all in our personal walk with Him and may peace reign in our hearts as we walk with one another.

  • From the list of 6 things to give up for Lent: “Give up something bad for you (Facebook, junk food, TV).”

    But wait! How are we going to share the 2015 edition of “Because He Lives” to our global friends if we give up Facebook!!!!!!! 🙂

    https://www.lds.org/new-era/2015/03/because-he-lives?lang=eng

    Jana writes, “I noticed in some of the comments on my Ash Wednesday post last year that some Mormons can be adamant about not wanting to dwell on suffering. It’s not called the Great Plan of Happiness for nothing, said one reader. The idea seemed to be that Christ suffered so we would not have to, so why would we turn that on its head?”

    Whoever wrote that was wrong. It is actually GOOD to feel Godlike sorrow, as we were taught today in our Elders Quorum meeting, from Chapter 5 of the current Ezra Taft Benson manual:

    “Godly sorrow is a gift of the Spirit. It is a deep realization that our actions have offended our Father and our God. It is the sharp and keen awareness that our behavior caused the Savior, He who knew no sin, even the greatest of all, to endure agony and suffering. Our sins caused Him to bleed at every pore. This very real mental and spiritual anguish is what the scriptures refer to as having ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ Such a spirit is the absolute prerequisite for true repentance.”

    https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-of-presidents-of-the-church-ezra-taft-benson/chapter-5-principles-of-true-repentance?lang=eng

    The Great Plan of Happiness does not mean the absence of sorrow and sin, but rather the ultimate deliverance therefrom through the grace and power of Jesus Christ.

    Fred M writes, “I’m an active member who went to Catholic school and found a lot of wisdom and beauty in the traditions there. Any member of the church who would give another member flack for celebrating Lent simply does not understand how the gospel works.”

    And they do not understand the concept of “holy envy” (nice to see Trent reference the term), where there’s something to be said for recognizing aspects of others’ beliefs from which one derives a measure of inspiration, and perhaps adapts it to one’s own circumstances.

    BJ writes, “Omission of physical symbols does not make a void of acknowledgement, shallowness of feeling, or an impoverishment of theology. Similarly, appreciation of beauty in other traditions does not require misrepresentations or false reductions of another.”

    Good point.

    Kevin Cummings writes, “If it helps, think of Lent like a training period in which a basketball team gets back to the fundamentals. The three pillars of Lent — fasting, almsgiving, and prayer — give us an opportunity to re-engage with our Faith.”

    Nicely stated. I don’t see any difference in worthiness in the aim of rededicating ourselves to do better during Lent, as we commonly do with our New Year resolutions every January 1. I don’t see the point of knocking those who gain from it.

  • A question: Do you know the origins of Halloween? Literally it comes from “All Hallows Eve” It marks the night before All Saints Day in the Christian calendar. On All Saints Day, the saints of all history celebrate their dominion over evil. All Hallows Eve evolved into the night before All Saints Day, as an example of how evil might reign for just a bit before overcome by Good. The symbols of evil (over the centuries greatly tamed to be skeletons, and goblins and witches and whatever “scary” things people can think of) are let loose–just a bit on Halloween, and on All Saints Day will be brought under the powerful dominion of God.

    The Mardi Gras festival is an adaptation of the same sort of idea related to Lent: Just before we begin the sacrifices of Lent and its emphasis on fasting, simplicity, repentence, comes one last night to feast on all the riches of food before the fasts of Lent. Mardi Gras is the last hurrah, if you will, before Lent. It’s a little overmuch…

  • To those who say “why look for the things of Lent, our religion teaches optimism”? I agree it is always more pleasant to live in optimism than in sadness. However, ..how do you really understand joy if you never have suffering? How do you get through suffering, if you have no experience of joy? MLK Jr in his favorite “I’ve been to the mountain top” speech brings home that we cannot live on the mountain top our entire lives…mostly we live on the plains below, and the mountain top is our experience of joy that looses its power if we try and stay there. In the bible, mountain tops are places of holy revelation…but it specifically reminds us that remaining on the mountain top is too intense for people. We cannot survive in the direct light of God.

    What Lent (and to a lesser degree, Advent) does is prepare me for the joys of the mountaintop, by giving me something to measure that joy against. The Christian year is an incredible teaching experience–all of it.

    Pr Chris

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