Lent is over.
It is Lazarus Saturday and the eve of Palm Sunday, or the celebration of the feast of Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem in the Orthodox Church. This means a remarkably festive day even in the anticipation of sorrow because the raising of Lazarus from the dead foreshadows our own hope of resurrection.
I surprised even myself by my full participation in the Lenten fast. But my sister told me before it began that part of the purpose of fasting is to practice the discipline of saying “no” to our desires. Food is a good thing, but when we fast, we practice mastering this one aspect of ourselves rather than letting it master us and this discipline has obvious applications in all other areas of life. I wanted to practice this. And my brother-in-law told me that Lent is like climbing a mountain, like the long journey to the highest spiritual high, like that of an epic summer camp. They both were looking forward to it. And so I figured I’d give it a try.
And now I understand.
I understand that at this point when I feel like I cannot go another day without an egg, even though I have already gone without for many, many days; when I cannot imagine eating any type of legume one more time, even though I have feasted on delicious curries, homemade refried beans, homemade bread with ripe avocado and vegan chocolate cake for weeks and have never gone truly hungry; when the only edible substance that sounds good is wine (thank God for wine being allowed on the weekends during the fast); when I know I have eaten, but like the very hungry caterpillar, I am still hungry…
even now, as Lent draws to a close and only one week remains of the fast and it is the Holy Week we have been anticipating for so long…
even in the middle of all of this, I am already looking forward to Lent and Pascha next year.
I cannot really explain this.
I do not think I am particularly more spiritual because I’ve participated in the Lenten fast. I don’t think that I prayed more, although I certainly did attend church more often. I still felt frustrated and overwhelmed with my new job. I’ve still been emotional and tearful for numerous reasons. I haven’t been particularly more selfless or generous or compassionate.
But I do feel really hungry and not just for eggs.
I anticipate that this Holy Week is going to be intense and hard. I’ll be working full-time as well as trying to go to church at least every day. I will be very tired and emotionally stretched. But I bet that when it is over, I will be sorry to close this chapter, to lower the curtain on this season.
I know that life isn’t all about feelings. But even when I have felt raw and broken with loneliness and longing, or when everything has gone wrong again and again in these recent days, I have still felt suspended and buoyed in a sweetness, a tangible grace.
I feel close to Jesus.
And I want to walk with Him through this Holy Week. And then keep going.
And I will probably get off course. Which might be partly why I already know I need to practice the discipline of Lent again next year.
And I can hardly wait.