Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The End of the Day...And a Little Off-Center

I had hoped to begin this post with a picture of my ash-blessed forehead with its little smudge centered neatly over my left eye. I think that my good friend who placed them there was too gentlemanly to move my hair out of the way. Unfortunately, my phone was set to save the picture on itself instead of on the memory card, so the only way I can retrieve it is to email it to myself, and I can't email from my house, so you will just have to use your imagination. It was probably an apt symbol for my day.

I had great plans for Ash Wednesday, I really did, but an eclectic collection of circumstances contrived to prevent them from becoming reality. For instance, I had promised myself that I would write something fairly substantial (if not lengthy) on this blog every day during Lent, and I find myself on the very first day with very little time and less ability to concentrate. None of this was my own fault, or indeed, anybody's fault. It's just the way things worked out. Of course, if I had given it a bit more thought, I would have realized that today was likely to turn out the way it did. 

What worries me about all this is that it has the potential to undermine all of Lent for me if I let it. I've always been a sucker for the suggestion that if you don't begin something perfectly, you might as well give up. When we were first married, Bill used to laugh at me because when I made a mistake on something I was writing, even if it was on the first word, I would throw the piece of paper away and begin again. I got over that a long time ago, but still, if I don't start on January 1, or Monday, or by some arbitrary deadline, it's hard to believe that it's worth starting anyway. Whoops! Messed up Ash Wednesday. Well, better luck next Lent.

Once, about twenty years ago, I was able to observe this way of thinking taken to sad and obsessive lengths. I had observed a young woman at Mass who was never still. She was constantly flipping her hair over her shoulders, or adjusting herself in some other way. Then one night, she was in the adoration chapel during my hour. She asked me if I would say the Rosary with her because she wouldn't be able to finish if she said it alone. Every time she made a mistake, or a perceived mistake, she would have to begin again with the Creed. I was worried that we would make a mistake and I would be stuck there all night, but somehow we made it through. The experience was rather frightening, though, because I could see how close some of my behaviours were to hers. I realized that if I didn't put a stop to it, I could easily slip over the edge.

So I guess I'll just have to persevere in my efforts and see what I can do in the next 39 days (We're not going to quibble here about it being really more than 39 days.) This makes perfect sense because the one thing that we learn from Our Lord's Passion and Resurrection is that if we mess up the first time around, He makes it better than it would have been to begin with. Also, there's this encouragement from St. John Chrysostom's Easter Homily.

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.


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