Summary: By prayer, fasting and giving we wear away our protective ego so that the grace of Christ can seep into or flood our souls and bring us to new life.
Scarification and Resurrection
It’s been years since I made a loaf of bread, or cinnamon rolls, but I do remember the leavening. I recall taking warm water and adding a package of Fleishmann’s yeast and then mixing in the flour and salt and oil. You have to knead–that’s spelled with a “k” for all you folks who’ve never done that–knead the dough quite a bit and it gets messy, but the leaven, the yeast, has to be mixed throughout the dough or it will rise and bake unevenly.
When the Hebrews escaped from Egypt, Moses told them to move fast before Pharaoh could change his mind. They didn’t have time to properly leaven and rise the bread, so they just made what we’d call “pancakes” and ate their Passover in some haste. Later, when the rules were written down, they were told to commemorate their Exodus with sandals on their feet, eating standing up. And they were for a week to eat only unleavened bread. In fact, they were to get rid of all the leavening in their house, and start over the next week.
St. Paul tells the Corinthians that they are to do the same thing with their behavior: he wants them to “celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” In other words, get rid of all the bad habits and replace them with virtuous ones. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
I think that has been the purpose of our Lenten observances–prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In prayer we submitted ourselves to God’s will, and we listened and read to find out what that will is. Easter is the day when His special grace comes to us so that we can more perfectly know and do the will of Our Lord.
In fasting we deprive ourselves of some enjoyable good, some legitimate pleasure, in order to bare our heart to God, who is Ultimate Good, and be more prepared to receive His grace. Easter is the day when that special grace comes to us so that we may want only God, want only Ultimate Good.
In almsgiving we turn away from our selfishness and, learning what the need of the poor and homeless may be, help them out of destitution so we can ourselves be more poor and humble before God. Easter is the day when special grace comes to us to understand and embrace the unique life of poverty that Jesus wants for us.
What is an apt analogy for this process of death to self and living only for Christ and His Law of Love? Here in South Texas we have a wildflower that blooms every Lenten season, and many years finds it in fullest flower right in Holy Week. We call it the “bluebonnet,” although it is known elsewhere as a “lupine.” But think about it. Bluebonnets came to their full flowering over a period of perhaps thousands of years, here in a climate that every few years is afflicted with severe drought.
The bluebonnet is a lovely flower that develops seedpods through the spring and summer. The pods have a seed that is quite special. It has a hard coat that in drought can preserve the living seed for months, a year, even several years, because it takes a long time to wear or dissolve away. If you have a bluebonnet seed and want it to sprout sooner than it would naturally, you have to “scarify” that seed. You need to rub away the coat or treat it with acid so the coat is thin enough so the seed can receive water and sprout and give you bluebonnets.
Scarification sounds like what happens to a viewer watching a vampire flick. But it’s actually that process of taking away the hard coat around a living seed so it can grow and flower. That’s exactly what Lent does for our souls, if we let it. By prayer, fasting and giving we wear away our protective ego so that the grace of Christ can seep into or flood our souls and bring us to new life.
I hope this Lent has been a time in which that kind of change has happened in your life. It is a great and beautiful gift of God. For me, I know that ego-pride is something that has afflicted me all my life. That has kept the grace of Christ from doing all He can to restore me to my divine image. Because I am a control freak, I hate to let go and let God do what He wants. So as a start, I use a gift I’ve had for many years, a gift that St. Paul calls the least of the gifts. On my own, I pray in tongues. The time I spend doing that is very precious, because I am letting the Holy Spirit do the praying for me. I let go of control of the words, and simply think “God, do the praying, because you know what needs to be asked, or what praise needs to be given, or what sin I need to repent of.” And I ask the Holy Spirit to use that act of prayer to rub away the hard coat from my soul, to scarify my ego so I can be more open to His will.