And So Lent Begins. Only 39 Days until Easter.

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Yesterday morning I took a little detour on my mile-long walk to work and stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Despite being dwarfed by the skyscrapers that surround it, the cathedral cuts a majestic figure, all towering Neo-Gothic spires and stained glass. It takes up an entire city block on its own; more than 3,000 people can find solace in its pews. Once inside, I joined a quick-moving line of city dwellers and tourists, all marveling at the intricate statues and prayer stations along the walls. Then it was my turn—a smiling priest dipped his thumb in dark ash, from palm fronds blessed last Palm Sunday, and rubbed it on my forehead in the shape of a cross. Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. It was Ash Wednesday, and Lent had officially begun.

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Posing in the cold after getting my ashes at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Lent, a period often described as (but not always literally) lasting for forty days, leads up to the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead on Easter. There’s fasting (no meat on Ash Wednesday or on Fridays), atonement (via confession and prayer), and the donation of money or time to the less fortunate. Catholics try with renewed vigor to connect with God through prayer and sacrifice: it’s common to “give up” something that you enjoy, specifically a sinful habit or a vice you want to curb. As a kid, I always gave up biting my nails—until I didn’t really bite them anymore. After that I usually picked a dessert food: cake, cookies, ice cream, potato chips. One year I renounced fast food. But these days I rarely snack on pastries unless I’ve baked them myself or know they’re not loaded with additives, and I almost never eat fast food. It took some brainstorming to decide on a Lenten promise for 2016, but I eventually settled on two, one physical and one mental.

First, my remaining bad food habit: bingeing on snacks at nighttime when watching TV. Often I’ll feel so proud of how I ate during the day—yogurt and fruit for breakfast, nuts as a midmorning snack, a salad for lunch, a little dark chocolate and a coffee as a midafternoon snack, and finally a home-cooked dinner—but then when I get home I’ll pull out the gummy bears, the sour worms, the licorice, the chocolate-dipped figs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat that kind of stuff in moderation, but lately it seems I pop open those bags more often than not. So, for Lent, I will give up eating candy at night when I get home from work.

Second, I want to be slower to criticize and to try harder to think positive. I don’t think I complain an undue amount, but I’ll sometimes snap when annoyed without forethought about my words or my delivery. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of a situation, I’m going to attempt to find the silver lining in everything. Standing on crowded subway train? At least that will wake me up a little bit more than sitting would have. Working late? At least I get along with my coworkers and have a boyfriend who will pick me up.

I’m not sure I’ll succeed completely, but I’ll try my best, and I’m sure God will appreciate my effort. Hopefully I can learn from the next forty days, instill into my life new ways of thinking and being that will carry forward even after Easter.

What are you giving up for Lent? How else do you celebrate the season?

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7 thoughts on “And So Lent Begins. Only 39 Days until Easter.

  1. Chris, I wish I did visit NYC more often, but other than JFK, I have not been to NYC in a long time. I’m in Chicago a lot, which I refer to as a manageable NYC. I’ve been inside a lot of churches in France, Italy, Portugal, and various cities in Spain, but I have never been inside of any place as majestic as La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The columns rise up to the ceiling and become tree branches and the light coming in through the windows rivals any modern day light show. Bill

    • I’ve never been to Chicago, but it’s definitely on my list of places to visit. I’m so glad you mentioned La Sagrada Familia, Bill, because I’m actually going to Barcelona as part of my honeymoon in August! Now I’m even more excited 🙂 Hope you have a good weekend!

      • Chris, you absolutely have to make sure you go inside the La Sagrada Familia. My first visit to Barcelona, I didn’t go inside because the lines were so long outside. My second visit, I learned I could order tickets on-line. Oh, what an experience.

        I have a few photos of the insides I could email you (I’ve forgot how to attach photos to a WordPress reply. My email address is: harmonybooksfilmsllc@comcast.net

        There are so many things to see in Barcelona, but actually I am happy not doing anything but sitting in a cafe drinking coffee. You can meet people from all over the world just by sitting in a cafe, since the cruise ships take off and return from Barcelona. And you can go deep underground and see the remains of the Roman city that was there long ago.

        Barcelona is the most enchanting place and what a spot for a honeymoon. My own honeymoon was over a quarter of a century ago, and we hit London, Paris and Rome, all great spots. But Barcelona is a bit special.

        Bill

        • Thanks, Bill! Your description of Barcelona sounds wonderful, and I look forward also to sitting at cafes and people watching. And my boyfriend loves coffee, so that’s perfect! I’d rather not see the photos, though—I want to see the cathedral for the first time in person! 🙂 Hope you have a great day.

  2. Although not a follower of an formal religion, I can see where this practice of Lent can be very beneficial and I wish you much success. You are fortunate to live in such an energetic and exciting place as NYC and is impressive, although I have only seen it from the outside. Next time, I will have to go in. Good post. Thanks.

    • Thanks for stopping by! Do you visit New York City often? I definitely recommend going into St. Patrick’s, though my favorite church aesthetically in Manhattan in St. John the Divine around West 110th Street. It’s magnificent!

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