Lenten Journal, Day 41

“Day 41” seems odd to write in a Lenten journal, but I’ve not separated out Sundays in my count of the days. We say “40 days of Lent” because Sundays are excluded; there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. I started this journal on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday and called that entry “Day 1” … so, weird or not, I’m calling this “Day 41” of Lent.

It’s also “Chrism Tuesday” (not an official name), the day on which clergy gather with their bishop to renew their ordination vows. The actual traditional day for this is Maundy Thursday but somewhere along the line American dioceses moved this service to Tuesday in Holy Week. Today marks the first time in my ordained life that I have not attended the Chrism Mass. Instead, I went to the orthopaedic clinic and endured a session of biometric measurement gauging the progress of my knee replacement recovery.

It felt weird not to be there. At exactly the same time I was bending my knee as tightly as I possibly could, colleagues would have been figuratively kneeling to promise once again to serve God and their congregations wholeheartedly to the best of their abilities and with God’s help. I made a quick mental promise to be faithful in retirement and then went back to complaining about pain. I think God understood.

Yesterday, I forgot to mention in my journal entry, was tax day, the day on which Americans are supposed to turn in their tax returns, informing the government of their income in the preceding year and either claiming a refund or making a payment to bring their tax liability current. I didn’t have to rush to the post office, however; we’d gotten our tax returns completed in February this year! Perhaps that is why I forgot to say anything about it.

Bring all these things together, orthopaedic procedures, ordination vows, missed events, tax deadlines, and Holy Week gets lost in the dust! Isn’t that, though, the nature of things? The mundane so often overshadows the sublime; we like to think it’s the other way around, but it’s not. The everyday is much more powerful than the extraordinary!

Speaking of extraordinary … The roof of Notre-Dame de Paris caught fire and burned up yesterday evening; the entire rook and the ornate 19th Century spire were wholly destroyed. The spire fell through the vaulted ceiling near the high altar and started a smaller fire within the nave. Parisian firefighters did an incredible job saving the structure, however, preserving priceless artwork and most of the stained glass. That cathedral is very important to me for very personal reasons going back to the summer of my high school graduation, 1969. Perhaps I will write about that tomorrow or later this week … and perhaps not. There will everyday matters to deal with and, as I’ve just noted, the everyday often overwhelms the extraordinary.


Note: The illustration is from a Vox report on the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris. In the report, it is captioned: “Smoke and flames rise during a fire at the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris, France, on April 15, 2019. Hubert Hitier/AFP/Getty Images” See the report here.