Yesterday on the phone with my aunt, she off-handedly asked what i’d be giving up for Lent this year. My family isn’t the most strict in terms of Catholicism, but on my father’s side they all go to church every week or two and make sure to observe all the major holidays and the rules that go along with them. So, they honestly practice Lent – giving up something extravagant like chocolate (i’ve always known it to be a food item with them (rather than buying new cds, which would be more apropros for me), but i’m not sure if that’s a symptom of my own family or Catholicism as a whole). I replied that i didn’t even realize Lent was upon us, although subconsciously i’m quite aware that the whole purpose of the Mardi Gras is to have one last wild night before heading into Lent. She clucked in reply that i should watch out lest i wind up in hell, and though she meant it light-heartedly its intended effect was felt.
Am i to think that i’m really going to hell because i didn’t give up chocolate for a month? While i realize such a practice obeys the letter of religious law, you have to obey the spirit as well, and obeying the spirit of the law is more important. I have a laughable line in my play where i implore to the gods “Well, good will, for instance, might do instead of love? Or, good sportsmanship instead of justice? Instead of honor, outward propriety?” I gave the line with a chuckle for nearly a month before my director stopped me in the middle of it one night and asked me to tell him what was going on. After some mulling on my part i realized that i wasn’t offering up my “insteads” as a joke to the gods, but as a reality. I am taking the stance that to ask that we always love our neighbor is asking too much, but that we should at least offer him our good will in hopes that we get it in return.
Somewhere in there is my feeling on Lent. I won’t begrudge my family their religious practices, and i’ll be mindful of my frivolous nature during Lent, but you can be sure they’ll all be on a chocolate binge when it’s over, and that shouldn’t be the point. Giving up something you like for an amount of time shows a commitment to your god, but actually changing your habit as a result of true self reflections shows that you’re really honoring him.
Plus, i don’t really like chocolate to begin with.