Archive for the ‘LENT’ Category

Not being a member of a liturgical denomination, this is a question I face every February. When I practice the yearly discipline, it is an individual choice to partake in a tradition greater than any one individual–How evangelical of me! But, in all seriousness, I keep the fast of Lent in order to more properly celebrate the feast of the Resurrection. I keep the fast to remember the sobriety commanded by the apostles. I keep the fast to moderate my immoderate self. What does Lent mean to me, who practices it alongside Church tradition, a little kid peeking over the high-Church wall? Each year I answer this question differently. This year, the Lenten fast is one of humility—of human limits.

Christ, Paul writes in Philippians, willingly took on the dismal lot of being born a man. He, who knew of his equality with the Most High God, emptied himself. This supreme humility, the humility to the point of accepting the ultimate limit of man—death, Christ experienced for our sake. He died, embodying the limits of the flesh, that he might overcome them. The months between Christmas, the celebration of the incarnation, and Easter, the triumph over death and sin, are the months of the body. We first celebrate the body as the imago dei in the twelve days of Christmas, and then mourn its limits during the fast of Lent. We mourn the fallen, sin-ridden body that is mankind. This prepares us to know the glorification of Christ raised on Easter morning.

Fasting reminds me of the limits of the flesh. We are dependent upon food. We desire. We are made frustrated by the lack of particular foods and drinks. All these weaknesses of the human body are made more manifest in the discipline of fasting. We must acknowledge our need for physical sustenance, our dependence upon the provision of a God who sends rain and sun that the fields and vineyards might flourish. We are the creature, not the creator.

CTH and I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button this past weekend. While the film housed some frustrating weaknesses and flaws, its statements about the nature of man were profound, albeit simple. To be man is to be bound, primarily by time. We have only so many days upon earth, and they are numbered for us. We watch as they slowly slip away, but are unable to do anything to stay the tide. Benjamin remarks, “I was thinking how nothing lasts, and what a shame that is.” We are limited by the body–as an infant, as a youth with broken limbs, and as an old man losing the memory of how he once walked. To be human is to become familiar with saying goodbye.

This is the lot that Christ chose on our behalf.

This is the lot we remember in the fast of Lent. In an age of ease and comfort, we remember the harshness that our sin has gained us. And we say with Eliot:

The only wisdom we can hope to acquire,
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

R. Card Hyatt


Read Full Post »

This is an excerpt from my senior thesis (“You are betrothed to both a maid and a man”: Real Difference as a necessary Comedic foundation in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night) written in 2007. It seemed appropriate to the season.

Just as the medieval festivals of Misrule began to die with the lessening of distance between the lord and servants, so too, as theory and philosophy question a solid metaphysical foundation of differences within human experience, comedy as festive release loses its place within contemporary culture. Though some differences are unavoidable, we seek to minimize them though our choices of clothing, avoidance of cultural stereotypes and personalization of morality, embarrassed by experienced distance between classes, genders, or cultures. Further, denying the metaphysical differences of morality, lessons virtue and vice to socially constructed linguistic effects. The names “good” and “evil” are arbitrary signifiers for concepts we cannot access; this position robbing any power from differences.

In denying differences, contemporary thought denies that a festive release is necessary. If there are not any differences between men and women, then there is no tension resulting from these, and thus there is no need for a comic role reversal and return. Festive release is pointless, because we live in a state of constant release, where there is the attempt to permanently erase differences. This constant release affects the genre of comedy as a whole. Role reversal is not as strange as it was to Shakespeare’s audience. It is not immediately hilarious to us that Viola is dressed as a man, because women wear pants more often than not. Bawdy humor, the release of appropriate social conversational conventions, is no longer humorous enough for a contemporary audience. Writers must push to perverseness in order to get a laugh, because there simply are no social conventions. It is not surprising that Twelfth Night presents confusing themes and strange characters to a contemporary audience. Shakespeare wrote to a culture who understood that the release of the festival of Twelfth Night properly followed the fast of Advent. But today, we attempt to celebrate Mardi Gras while simultaneously removing Lent from the calendar, leaving ourselves a foolish society incapable of understanding the Fool.

R. Card Hyatt

Read Full Post »

This is a season of rediscovery for me. I’m experiencing the joy of seeing things in a new light, as if for the first time. Examples that immediately come to mind are as follows:

1) Artichokes – It’s not that I have never eaten an artichoke before. I had enjoyed the occasional marinated artichoke heart as an appetizer/salad fixin’ or my favorite jalapeño artichoke dip, but I had never practiced the art of eating a whole artichoke until recently. I have fallen in love with these “antioxidant powerhouses” (as the label on a four pack so aptly dubbed them). I could eat them everyday.  I recommend steaming them in a “broth” of water, a little lemon juice, bay leaf and 1-2 garlic cloves. I enjoy dipping the leaves and, the pièce de résistance, the heart in mayonnaise with a touch of balsamic vinegar. YUM!

Another fabulous thing about artichokes is that they are a finger food that require some effort to eat. You have to pull away at them, eating one piece at a time. This results in the slow enjoyment of food (a lost art in our culture) which allows one to truly appreciate the beauty of taste and texture and hopefully reduces risk of gluttony. (I enjoy pomegranates and pistachios for similar reasons.) Also, it is a great food for engendering communion among the partakers around the table, the turn of conversation metered by alternating dips in the shared dish.

Turns out some things that are good for you are enjoyable. Imagine that.

2) Public Libraries –  I love to read. I have an ever extending list of books which I hope to read sooner than later. The problem is that I cannot afford my reading habit, that is, if I aim to purchase every book I get the fancy to read. So, I recently rediscovered my local library. It is a little run-down but there is a diamond in the rough. This is a place with more books than I could possibly read and they are FREE! Get this, you can borrow up to thirty books at a time, swipe a little green card and be on your way. If, like I quickly found, you cannot finish your stack of books before the three week loan period expires, you can go online and RENEW! It get’s better! If they don’t immediately have a book that you want at that branch, you can request the item and they will notify you when it arrives (usually within a week). This is incredible!

Being a curious and somewhat fickle reader, I can preview as many books as my little heart desires with no monetary obligation. It’s like intellectual casual dating. Ok, bad analogy.  Anyway, I can preview books and decide if they are worth purchasing. In this way, the library is conducive to good stewardship. It is only costing me time, which I admit is precious, but I am of the firm belief that reading is never a waste of this valuable commodity. However, spending money on books that I will never be inclined to read again or to pass on to others is arguably a waste.

3) Children’s Literature – This is a fun one. I’m getting to read books which I either never read as a child or have since forgotten. This is perhaps the clearest example of rediscovery, finding that well-written children’s books are perpetually relevant even for grown-ups (a term that seems less and less accurate) and that a sense of wonderment is well worth cultivating.

In the words of Dr. Dorian in Charlotte’s Web “Children pay better attention than grownups. If Fern says that the animals in Zuckerman’s barn talk, I’m quite ready to believe her. Perhaps if people talked less, animals would talk more.” I’m hoping to rediscover the keen perception, curiosity and awe that is characteristic of children. Who knows, maybe I’ll hear animals talk.

4) Lent – To spare you the length of my reflections on this topic, I will simply note that my view of Lent has changed from the unfortunate misconception that it is simply a season of self-denial and sorrow. I now have the perspective of Lent as spiritual Spring cleaning. We are decluttering our lives of the things that distract us from the simple and life-giving truths of our identity, position and inheritance as Saints. We fast, repent and deny ourselves certain earthly pleasures with a purpose, that we may be reminded that “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” It is a time of solemn reflection and repentance, but I cannot help rejoicing in anticipation. We are preparing our hearts for a glorious feast, the ultimate communion wherein we are reconciled to God through Christ’s victory over sin and death and thereby we are qualified as co-heirs of His eternal kingdom. I should think that fellowship over artichokes is a dim reflection of the glorious communion of the saints in Paradise.

For these, and many other things, I rejoice.


Read Full Post »