Friday, February 22, 2013

Lent 2013, V

V. It’s tempting to me to take the plant growing to the sun analogy and apply it directly to the relationship of the soul to God, jumping straight into John of the Cross mysticism, infused contemplative prayer and so forth. I admit that’s what I had in mind when I was formulating that analogy, but on thinking it over some more, I think that would probably be a mistake. I would miss something. So let’s keep this analogy in the realm of the purely natural for a bit before carrying on to the supernatural. After all, grace builds on nature. In fact, one might say that the point of grace is precisely to heal nature, return it to its proper use. Even on this natural level our fallen nature ruins us, by ruining our use and enjoyment of all the natural goods. We take food, make it an idol, and become gluttons. We make work or leisure an idol and we have workaholism or indolence. We make sex into an idol and come up with a whole host of perversions. So idolatry, properly speaking, is the root of all sin, the creature choosing another creature instead of God. Fasting, on the other hand, is the removal of that idol for a time. The frustrated hunger for the artificial joy must then cast around to find something else to fill it, which is where the duality of Lenten observance comes in. We don’t just give something up, we also undertake some good work. Simply frustrating the disordered hunger is not enough, we must give it something else to latch onto, or it will be back to its old ways by Pentecost. Lent is a time of emptying, not so that we may be empty, but so that we have room to be filled with what we were really made for.

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