Lent 2010: Week 1

Here’s what I’ve been up to during the first week of Lent. Giving up Facebook has provided time and energy for other projects.

Cooking

I decided not to obsess over food-related Lenten disciplines, though I have managed to do without cookies and cakes. After finishing off last week’s Baked Rigatoni and Italian Herb Focaccia, I brewed up a big batch of Lentil Soup and baked a loaf of 10-grain bread (using the recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible). So I’ve been eating simple but hardy soup & bread all week (and have quite a bit frozen for future meals).

Lentil Soup

Sewing

Several years ago I bought this beautiful, bright fabric to make a curtain for the window in my stairway.

curtain fabric

A few days ago I finally made the curtain. I think it looks perfect!

Stairway curtains

The remaining fabric will go for a similar curtain for my back door.

Lenten Reading Group

After my Willa Cather Book Group disbanded, I decided to join a Lenten Reading Group through the University Episcopal Community in a study of Lactantius’ Divine Institutes.

Lactantius Divine Institutes

The syllabus describes this project as follows:

Lactantius was the first Christian to compose a comprehensive account of the faith of Christians in the Latin language. The Divine Institutes, written during the last Great Persecution of the Church by the Roman authorities (303-13 A.D.) was meant as a definitive description of Christianity that would answer all possible pagan objections and provide a permanent way which would draw middlebrow folk on to ‘that full and overflowing fount of teaching which slakes thirst in the inmost parts’. Among these middlebrow folk was Constantine the Great (306-37), who emerged from the years of the Great Persecution as the first Christian emperor. The Divine Institutes open a window onto the Christian experience of persecution and onto the sort of Christianity embraced by Constantine. What they have to say, in particular about Christian ethics and the Christian hope, still has the power to illuminate lives today.

For the first week our assignment was Books I-III, 225 pages setting the stage for the rest of the book’s defense of Christianity. I made it through 187 pages. So far Lactantius’ primary rhetorical device seems to be ridiculing the beliefs of the pagans and calling them “stupid.” He is rather witty (probably more so to those more well-versed in classical literature) and I did mark several passages that made me laugh out loud. I marked even more passages that seemed to contain criticisms which could be as easily leveled against Christianity as against the pagan gods.

In any case, the man leading the group is entertaining and full of great stories, so I’ll likely plow through the remaining 250 pages, which spread over the next five weeks should be less arduous than this first section.

Images of Haiti

Images of Haiti Cover

My church, which has a partnership with a church in Bigonet, Haiti, has produced a book of stories (and a set of posters) about Haiti, in English and Haitian Creole. I’m helping out with a bit of internet research locating Haitian Studies and Creole Language Programs for possible marketing of the book and associated posters. The book and posters are being sold through SyracuseCulturalWorkers.com.  Or contact me to learn more about it!

WOW!

On top of all that, in the evenings I’ve been trying to stay awake to watch the Olympics, though don’t get me started on the NBC Olympic coverage–ARRGGHH!!

And I’m still managing to take my naps, do my yoga, and otherwise manage my CFS. I doubt I can keep this up for long (I occasionally have bursts of energy followed by periods of total exhaustion), but I’m thankful for this productivity nonetheless.

Shrove Tuesday & Ash Wednesday


Spent today, Ash Wednesday, recovering from overindulgence on Shrove Tuesday*. My traditional Shrove Tuesday* involves pancakes, not running drunk & naked through the streets of New Orleans, but it is still possible to overindulge, especially when you attend TWO pancake events in one day. At noon I had pancakes prepared by a British gentleman (which means they were the style of pancake slightly thicker than a crepe and served with sugar and lemon) shared with Episcopalians and Lutherans some of whom were beginning a Lenten Study of Lactantius (more on him later). In the evening was a more traditional U.S. Episcopal gathering involving traditional American pancakes (plain and pumpkin), sausage, & eggs followed by a raffle in support of Haiti Relief. Between the two events I consumed more eggs, butter/fat, and other things I don’t usually eat than I should have.

Thus, today, Ash Wednesday, was spent with tea & juices, later some yogurt, banana, and eventually a bowl of leftover minestrone soup and some leftover focaccia. I think my system has finally recovered.

This year my Lenten Disciplines are mostly about clearing away some distractions so I can be more mindful about how I spend my time. I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so I need to be more careful about how I spend what little energy I have. I find that when I’m tired I often do mindless things that seem to take little energy, but in reality are draining. Many of these involve the Interweb: Facebook, email, reading news feeds, etc. Last year I gave up Facebook for Lent, though I checked in with folks on Sundays (‘cuz technically “Sunday’s don’t count” in the 40 days of Lent). This year I’m going to try to stay off of FB altogether. I hope to spend the time reading, resting, playing my violin, and working on some projects I’ve been neglecting.

Most years I also try to include some food-related discipline during Lent. I’ve been doing quite a lot of baking (cookies and cakes) the past few months, though I’m really not much of a dessert eater. So, I’m taking a break from baking cakes and cookies during Lent. I will still bake bread, because I hope to eat simpler during Lent (mostly soups and bread) so as to focus on other things. I had considered attempting the 2 Dollar Difference challenge during Lent (where you attempt to eat on $2 per day and donate the difference between that and what you would usually spend), but when I calculated my current food expenditures (approx. $5.50/day), I realized how much work it would be to try to keep track (and find lower cost alternatives) and decided that wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time. I still like the general idea, which you can read more about at 2 Dollar Difference , but my tendency toward obsessive compulsive record keeping would likely ruin any positive effects of the practice.

I promised I would say more about Lactantius, but he will have to wait, as I’m running out of energy.

For those of you observing Lent, may your Lenten Journey be a meaningful and insightful one.

according to my dictionary, the name comes from “shrive” which means to administer the sacrament of reconciliation; to free from guilt; or to confess one’s sins, esp. to a priest; and is related to the words prescribe and scribe (to write). Only instead of preparing for Lent by confessing our sins, modern Christians cleanse their pantries by using up all their eggs, sugar, and butter.

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