Sunday, April 01, 2007

teriyaki mahi-mahi, vegan cake, and the deep breath before the final plunge

In a way, today felt like the day before the start of Lent. I don't recall feeling this way on past Palm Sundays. Maybe I've been more interactive with the cycle of feasts and fasts this time around, maybe my spirit is more closely attuned to the rhythms of Orthodox life, maybe it helps that at least this day I'm in sync with my Western-calendar family and friends. In that last respect, it helps that today was (coincidentally) a potluck lunch with the small group from Bethany. Palm Sunday itself may have been a minor blip in the day's events, but at least there was food and fellowship, and I needn't have brought my fish sticks (although it worked out well for the kids), because there was grilled mahi-mahi. Julie also tried her hand at making vegan chocolate cake--perhaps her first cake ever from scratch--which turned out to be a hit with the group. I normally try to keep my Lenten menu as simple as possible, rather than push the boundaries of what's allowed. But it was good to make this a true feast day. And of course I knew that I still had the final push through Holy Week ahead of me.

I'm not going to push quite as hard as I have in some years past. I'll eat a little bread and drink some water each of the first three days. Thursday I hope to polish off the remaining hummus and the concoction of taco-seasoned beans that I later mixed with leftover corn and couscous. I don't like to have fasting food left after the end of a long fasting season. I won't be in the mood to eat it again for a while. I'm planning to do the total fast on Holy Friday and a little bread on Saturday. Then--it may not be a traditional configuration--but I figured out that pretty much all the traditional elements of the Pascha basket are contained in meat-lover's pizza. So that's pretty much what I'm bringing--maybe a danish as well, and the requisite quiche to share. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. There's still Holy Week to get through. I tried to plan everything out, so I won't have to think much about food in the coming days. I'm hoping that putting it all down in writing will help lock it out of mind.

Julie asked me the other day if I was looking forward to Lent being over. I wasn't sure how to answer. It's difficult to explain to someone who's never been through it. Of course, I feel like I could have done so much more with it. It would be nice to have more time, which seems to have flown by. Also, frankly, I like the discipline. Not that I wouldn't like to have some fried chicken or a cheeseburger too. But in my more lucid moments, I think the ascetic struggle is preferable. Of course, I am looking forward to Pascha. To me, though, that's not quite the same thing as wanting Lent to end. That's not what gets me excited. Sure, it will feel that much better when I bite into that pizza six days from now. I'll have the contrast to tell me what it means to feast. But God help me--I hope I can feel hungry again before Bright Tuesday is over. I'm not quite ready to give up meat permanently, but if the discipline of Lent can't spill over somehow into the rest of life, what has it really achieved?

And of course, the food part is the least concern. Will I come away with greater love? Greater strength for the struggle against sin? Greater humility? I hope so. But that's where I feel like I could use more time. And I'm not talking about another week--maybe a few years or a few decades. I don't think I could do this if it ended with anything less than St. John Chrysostom's homily. I need to hear when the buzzer sounds that I'm still welcome, even if I've come up short. But it's not time to give up yet! I've still got the lightning round ahead of me. We all have. Thank God, we're in this together. Pray for me! It's getting late (in more ways than one), and I'd better be off to prayers myself . . .

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