On Lenten penances

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I really love the book of Isaiah. In today's Mass readings he really calls it like it is. "Your fast ends in quarrelling and fighting, striking with the wicked claw".
Various bloggers have commented that certain penitential acts (giving up caffeine, or rigidly fasting, or the like) have in the past been more penitential for the housemates of the penitent than for the penitent herself.
I remember as a children that we sometimes competed for the 'medal' of 'most rigorous penance', without much thought as to what the true purpose of this time in the wilderness should be.
Given that our culture celebrates the seasons before they happen (Christmas from 11-1 to 12/24, as an example) I should not be surprised that the Easter candy is already on full display, tempting me horribly. Take, for example, Cadbury's eggs. That is a confection that I dearly enjoy, and I know that by Easter it will no longer be available. For me to go to the grocery store has become a penitential act, as I walk past all the premature Easter displays and try to remember that Lent has just started.
Eating fish and seafood is not penance (for me), but eating beans and rice is. The penitential meals are the ones that take time to think out and prepare. Abstaining from the quick fix meal is a household penance - one that is perhaps more sacrificial than frozen fish and chips or boxed mac and cheese. Acts of penance demand time and not just stuff - maybe even more so in our culture that worships the fast fix and complains about 'wasted time'.

I am not sure that going away for a weekend conference at the onset of Lent was the wisest decision I have made - but here I am. At the breakfast buffet this morning, I was struck by the sheer quantity of food available from which to choose. I sincerely hope that this hotel (and others) have ways to donate excess to local food banks rather than destroy the leftovers.
I also wonder how many fill their stomachs with food they don't need, trying to assuage the emptiness of a life without God.


Your mention of certain penitential acts being more penitential for the housemates of the one doing penance hits very close to home. I fasted rigidly on Ash Wednesday, not eating at all until dinner in the early evening. Luckily, I was by myself for most of the day, because just before I sat down to that fish dinner at 5:00, I was ready to "strike with a wicked claw" big time!

ohmigoo'ness! i'm so grateful i'm not alone in my having to offer up my visits to the grocery store. who would have ever thought that the frozen food isle could be so tempting? and having given up smoking, i'm finding it even more difficult to just say no to the foodporn that is called the Cadbury egg.

For me, I love opening up the fridge on Fridays and seeing meat. Any kind of meat, mind you. Meat I may not look at the rest of the week, but suddenly I'm like: "Ooh." And there's this voice in my head, and it says, "You can have that. He doesn't really care, does He?" But then I remind myself that the first sin was fast-breaking (something another blogger brilliantly pointed out to me), and that Satan used much the same words to entice them.

I just find it funny, though, that I only really want those meat products when God doesn't want me to have them. And the world says Satan doesn't exist? Pssh. Visit my kitchen during Lent.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by alicia published on February 27, 2004 12:16 PM.

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