Quadragesima

Zach and I celebrated Shrove Tuesday Denny’s style last night: my reward for grading that batch of tests was a decadent platter of French toast at 8pm. It was a good end to Ordinary Time.

Today, as you know, begins the forty days of Lent. I was going to go all English-Teacher on you and write about T.S. Eliot’s lovely Ash Wednesday poem, but since Dr. Birzer has already done a beautiful job of it over here, I’ll let well enough alone. (I do encourage you, though, to take some time over the next few weeks to read through Eliot’s  piece: it’s as much prayer as it is poem.)

This is the first year that I’ve wondered why these forty days are called “Lent” and the only reason I wondered is because I was trying to come up with a play on words for the title of this post. Unable to make any connection between the past tense of lend and fasting, I found the following explanation on ye olde world wide web:

“Lent was originally known by the Latin term “quadragesima”, which translated means the fortieth. This relates to the fortieth day before Easter and the forty days of fasting to come.It was during the Middle Ages, when sermons were no longer given in Latin that the English term “Lent” was adopted. Lent is derived from the Germanic name for Spring “Lencten” and the Anglo-Saxon name for March “Lenct”. “Lencten” comes from the Germanic root for “long” as Spring is the time of year when the days become longer.”

There you go: as Anglo-Saxon as can be.

You Latin lovers can give up some indulgence for Quadragesima if you like.

Pregnancy and the prospect of nursing make traditional fasting rather difficult. (Besides, since I’ve been abstaining from alcohol and coffee for nine months already for the baby’s sake, adding desserts or meat to the list doesn’t wouldn’t seem to carry much spiritual significance.) In past years I’ve given up time wasters like Facebook, or vanities like make-up (remember that spring, Amy? Not a pretty time). And while each demanded some measure of sacrifice, I don’t know that those practices actually contributed to my spiritual growth.

This year will have to be a little different. But I’m not going to bother you with details, lest I become like the Pharisees on the street corners who announce their prayers and fasting with trumpets and thus receive their meager reward in full.

It was a strange experience this evening, going up to receive ashes at Mass. I’m so conscious of life within me these days: I cope with the discomforts of full term pregnancy by trying to focusing on the joyful mystery that is this miracle of life (you know, Gaia-style). Being reminded that I am dust and to dust I shall return was a little shocking. What’s more, it made me realize, for the first time, honestly, that this little baby–truly on the brink of birth, within a few weeks of his first breath–is doomed to dust, as well.

He and I both have a lot of life to live in the interim…but it’s hard to keep in mind that this IS just the interim, you know?

“And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us”

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1 Comment

Filed under Catholicism, Faith, Mothering, Poetry, Reading

One response to “Quadragesima

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