27 February 2009

Is it 'Lent' or 'Loaned'?

Well, I'm glad to see that Rosmuc, An Aill bhuí, which I raved about here the other day, narrowly beat the equally fantastic Cliffs of Moher III in the Brother's competition.

He'd posted a set of five paintings to ask which one people thought should be put up for auction on EBay to raise money for Rape Crisis Network Ireland and St Patrick's Hospital and Marymount Hospice, the two charities supported by this year's Irish Blog Awards. It's his way of saying thanks for his paintings having been included in the event.

If you can’t join in the bidding, he says, you can still help by linking, blogging, tweeting, etc. If you can bid, though, it's surely well worth it. I mean, take a look.

Your wall'd look good around that, wouldn't it?

Having mentioned the Brother, his American Hell cartoon yesterday was a tad less bleak but rather more seasonal than usual, and it reminded me of Ardal O'Hanlon's spiel about Lent from a few years back:
One thing I found bizarre about the Catholic religion is the season of Lent, y’know, forty days, ends on Easter Sunday, and it corresponds to the time that Jesus spent fasting in the desert. You’re encouraged to make a little sacrifice during Lent, to show solidarity with Our Lord, who was cold and hungry and sandy, and all alone. And most major religions would have a period of sacrifice where they’d give up food completely and they’d nearly die of starvation, but not Catholics, ‘cause we know how to look after ourselves.

What do we give up?


Yeah, just ask somebody next year, ‘Ah, hello Brendan, what are you giving up for Lent?’
‘Eh, Crunchies. No more Crunchies for me for a whole month.’

Bloody hypocrite! If he really wanted to make a sacrifice he should give up something he really needs. Like oxygen, for example.
To be fair, we probably ought to be a bit tougher on ourselves than we tend to, but the Church has always recognised that people can go to extremes on this one. Indeed, if we look at the history of early Christianity, it may strike us as ascetic to a degree that may border on fanaticism, but if we compare it with the myriad other cults and heresies that sprang up at the time, what's staggering is that the Church stood against their pessimistic tide by insisting on the inherent goodness of creation, and in doing so it insisted that our sacrifices should have limits: we might deprive ourselves of the good things of this world, but we ought never to hold that the world itself was not good. To quote Chesterton, as is my wont:
The early Church was ascetic, but she proved that she was not pessimistic, simply by condemning the pessimists. The creed declared that man was sinful, but it did not declare that life was evil, and it proved it by damning those who did. The condemnation of the early heretics is itself condemned as something crabbed and narrow; but it was in truth the very proof that the Church meant to be brotherly and broad. It proved that the primitive Catholics were specially eager to explain that they did not think man utterly vile; that they did not think life incurably miserable; that they did not think marriage a sin or procreation a tragedy. They were ascetic because asceticism was the only possible purge of the sins of the world; but in the very thunder of their anathemas they affirmed for ever that their asceticism was not to be anti-human or anti-natural; that they did wish to purge the world and not destroy it.


That the early Church was itself full of an ecstatic enthusiasm for renunciation and virginity makes this distinction much more striking and not less so. It makes all the more important the place where the dogma drew the line. A man might crawl about on all fours like a beast because he was an ascetic. He might stand night and day on the top of a pillar and be adored for being an ascetic, but he could not say that the world was a mistake or the marriage state a sin without being a heretic.
Which isn't to say that we mightn't do a smidge more than refrain from Crunchies. Am I fasting, and if so from what? None of your beeswax, as they say.

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