I’ve often thought of this season as “The Joyful Season of Lent.”
After all, Lent even comes with a built in happy day, Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. But we don’t have to wait a month before we can enjoy some happiness during Lent. God made us to be happy NOW and in eternity.
There are, of course, somber and sober moments in life, so we cannot always be filled with bliss in this vale of tears. And Lent is, of course, a season of penance and sacrifice. But…
If you think about it, happiness is what Lent is all about.
I was just telling someone yesterday about the Greek adage, “Pathei Mathos” — learning (mathos) comes through experience/suffering (pathos). That was the ancient way of finding meaning in suffering. There is still something to be gained through this humanistic ethos.
We make sacrifices during Lent, because we have so much to gain. True happiness in this world cannot be found in gadgets, or in money, or pleasure, or honor, or power. These things actually hold us down, because to enjoy them, we either have to waste them or work hard to safeguard them. We end up spending ourselves in our efforts to maintain earthly pleasures.
This is not to say that we should not enjoy earthly pleasures, just that we should not put all our eggs in that basket. During lent, we practice detachment from those banal things and focus more on uniting ourselves to Christ, where our true joy resides.
We also learn (mathos) during this time, through experience of the Cross (pathos), that our suffering has greater value when we unite it to Christ. Our experiential knowledge of Christ gives deeper joy to the soul and it is a joy that cannot be taken from us.
That is why Lent should be a happy season, a time of spiritual joy on earth pointing toward the joy we will experience for all eternity in heaven. This means that Lent should not be a time of introversion, but a time of looking outward and forward — outward through our charitable works and almsgiving, forward as we prepare for Easter and our life with Christ in the life to come.