Tuesday, February 9, 2010


If we think of the word “carnival” at all (though frankly, I doubt we do), we might realize it comes from a fusion of 2 Latin words—carne and vale, literally meaning “meat” and “farewell,” implying that the fast of Lent is about to arrive (for some of you who may disagree, nevertheless it is Lent [the period of fasting and penance] which is primarily here, not Mardi Gras [the orgy before the ‘cut-off’]. The 40 days are not simply scheduled for the purpose of recovering from the partying, the parades, the balls, the King cakes…

But for the more liturgically-minded, Lent might be less the farewell to flesh and more a “Hallel-vale”—the farewell to the Hebrew word of praise that is more familiar to us in its Latin form: Alleluia. We won’t sing this word again until the Easter Vigil.

The word, in its Hebrew form [Hallelu-Yah], literally means “Praise the LORD,” but its joyful meaning removes it from the worship of these next six weeks, in keeping with the penitential and somber atmosphere of the season.

Either way, Lent should be a time of sober reflection on our lives and “firm purpose of amendment,” to use the language of the Catechism. Do we want to change? Probably not. But are we really content with our lives as they are? Again, probably not. And are our lives all that they could/should be, with God’s grace? Once more, probably not…

“What will this Lent hold for us?” This is not so important a question as, “What could this Lent hold for us?” The first seems to imply a sense of fate; the second depends upon a commitment of the self. Is that why we shy away from it? What would you really like to have transformed in your life, or in your self, this year?

What will we say “farewell” to in this season of reflection and accountability?

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