The editorial of the month

The editorial of the month by Father Sebastian White, o.p.

In his delightful essay “Days of Grace”, Msgr Ronald Knox playfully observes that our usual Lenten routine of giving things up, salutary as it is, has one drawback—the season feels heavy and plodding. “Such is our human make-up,” he writes, “that a deliberate abstention, though it be only from sweets or the cinema, pricks like a hairshirt. Which is why the forty days of Lent seem to pass so slowly; will it never be Easter Day?”

And yet, as he points out, that is the opposite of how it should be. “Lent ought to pass like a flash with a sense of desperate hurry. ‘Good heavens! The second Sunday already, and still so little to show for it!’ Lent is the sacramental expression of the brief life we spend here, a life of probation, without a moment in it we can afford to waste. That is why it begins with Saint Paul’s metaphor of an ambassador delivering an ultimatum; we have only a few ‘days of grace’ to make our peace with God. Ash Wednesday recalls our ignominious, earthy origins; Easter looks forward to our eternity. The space between is not, if we look at it properly, a sluggish declension; it is a mill-race. If only we could cheat ourselves into the feeling that these forty days were our last, how quickly they would run their course!”

Knox’s counsel is to think outside the box: not only “to do without something but to get something done”. His examples may seem quaint: getting through a pile of unanswered letters; seeing the aunts we ought to visit; picking up the manuscript we promised to read but haven’t made time for. But the point is clear, and we do well to consider adopting simple, positive acts of charity.

In the end, whether we stick with the old standards this Lent—such as sacrificing sugar or screen time (or if you’re heroic, coffee)—or come up with something new, may we live with heaven-bent hearts, For there is no eternal city for us in this life but we look for one in the life to come (He 13:14).