Thursday, March 02, 2006

# Posted 5:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

WELCOME, DEAR FEAST OF LENT. The word derives in English from the Anglo-Saxon word for Spring; the celtic and romantic languages derive their word from the quadragesima, the fortieth day antedating Easter, thus An Carghas in Irish and cuaresma in Spanish. (Anglicans Online charmingly writes of the liminal feasts of septuagesima, sexagesima and quinquagesima, ''the Roman communion abolished them in 1969, and they disappeared without the firing of a shot; we are not aware of the formation anywhere of a Society for the Preservation of the Gesimas.') There is something aesthetic in its asceticism, as corrective for the pornography of the present, the measuring out of time not with Eliot's coffee spoons but with efficiencies of speed, cost and modishness. Lent is stern, and eternal; a memento mori as well as of our dearest and best principles and our shortcomings. It is not only Eliot who found in the language and tempo of martyrs, of Little Gidding's ash on an old man's sleeve, the still point of the turning world, the answer to the interrogative of the Wasteland, the steel that questions the distempered part. If all time is eternally present, all time is unredeemable.
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