My editor was gently chiding me that this column was due. The problem wasn’t my unwillingness; it was my lack of inspiration. The theme was “We are an Easter people.” What could I possibly say about Easter that hasn’t been said a hundred thousand times before?
Since staring at the computer screen didn’t seem to be very productive, I picked up a book I’ve been trying to read for about a month—The Shock of the Old by David Edgerton, a treatise on how and why old technologies continue to play important roles in modern life. One of his points is that in today’s world it takes more time, effort and money to maintain something than it does to make something new. In the life of all modern machines, a point comes when the decision has to be made to jettison it or repair it. How and why we make that decision tells a lot about a society and the people who live in it. Do we find ways to keep using the things we have or do we become a disposable culture where nothing is permanent? Do we value what we have or do we continually look for something new? Are we willing to do what is necessary to keep objects in working order or would we rather fill the garbage dumps of the world with our discards?
Suddenly something clicked. The same thing happens in our spiritual lives with Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time.
Lent is the manufacturing period. We expend a fair amount of time, energy and resources in creating new behaviors, patterns of thought or disciplines, but this spiritual assembly line lasts only 40 days. On Easter Sunday, our “new” person is revealed. However, just as we think of the day a new product rolls off the manufacturing line as the end of the manufacturing process, we tend to think of Easter as the culmination of our Lenten labors.
In one sense, that’s true. Symbolically speaking, on Eastern morning, we (hopefully) emerge from our Lenten factory with a new car smell on our soul. The week after Easter, which the Church actually considers an extension of Easter Sunday, we get to drive around enjoying its heady fragrance.
But it doesn’t last. Once anything, including our new selves, has been created, the much more lengthy and costly process of maintenance begins. Almost before we are out of the Easter season, the question becomes: Do we commit ourselves to the ongoing work of maintaining the new person we have created or do we simply let it fall to the wayside and start the process over again next year?
Most of us, I suspect, want to maintain, but the reality of life and its stressors makes us default to the latter.
So this month, this Easter season, I offer you the challenge of an “extended warranty.” Whatever it is you did as your Lenten discipline, find a way to incorporate it or some part of it in your ongoing life. Let’s say you prayed a daily rosary during Lent. While you might not be able to keep that up, how about saying a weekly rosary? Or if you gave up sweets for six weeks, perhaps you can give them up one day a week? If nothing else, you might consider keeping meatless Fridays all year round.
The point isn’t to try to turn your entire life into Lent-lite, but to make a conscious, deliberate decision to maintain the good you have achieved over the past weeks. So celebrate the Resurrection, eat the ears off the chocolate bunnies, dye the eggs, light the candles, sing the hymns of praise and rejoice in the risen Lord. Then, before you have a chance to spill a soft drink on the upholstery of your soul, get in the habit of regular spiritual maintenance.
May you all have a Blessed Easter!