I recently added a small canvas print of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna (Madonna di San Sisto) to the wall of my study. (The original is nearly nine feet tall; my print is sixteen inches tall.) Much of its appeal to me is its connection to my favorite nineteenth century author, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and my favorite twentieth century author, Vasily Grossman. (I studied Russian literature quite seriously for a while.) What this has to do with Mother’s Day … we shall see.
I have known people who thought their lives were wonderful, or at least happy, or at least good enough – until something awful happened to them or to people they love. I have known people who, from an early age, suffered in ways and degrees that convinced them – and others – that their lives could never be wonderful, or even happy, or even good enough.
The message of Easter, the holiest of Christian holy days, is that eventually, through the infinite grace of Jesus Christ, when all our becoming is done, our lives can and will be good enough. Even happy. Even wonderful.
Even now, even here amid our yearning, the gifts of Easter inspire goodness, instill (not just promise) happiness, and fill us with wonder.
In the Protestant tradition, today is the last day of Lent. (The precise span is different in other traditions.) Unlike most of the Christian world, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don’t formally observe Lent. Our awareness of it tends to be shallow and cultural, not deep and devotional.
As in: People give things up for Lent, right? Like chocolate and reality television? Just to prove they can? Things they love and to which they intend to return? — because if they were things they should give up anyway, they wouldn’t wait for Lent, and their abstinence wouldn’t end with Lent, would it?
As in: Lent appears from the outside to be a needed respite after the day- or weeks-long bacchanal of Mardi Gras, an orgy of fleshly pleasures so intense that it takes participants six and a half weeks to detoxify (physically and/or spiritually) sufficiently that they can walk into church on Easter in a straight line and with a straight face.
This is a shallow, ignorant view of Lent. Let’s take it more seriously for a few moments here.
You’ve already guessed that I’ve begun to think more seriously of Lent. A favorite Christian blogger, Kim Hall (at GivenBreath.com) has been helping me, even if she doesn’t know it. In a lesser way, my Mormon bishop (pastor) helped this year, too. So did some people whose names, roles, and troubles I will not mention beyond this sentence, who have turned to me in recent weeks for counsel, comfort, or simply a listening ear.