This Lent I find myself contemplating the nature of sacrifice more than I ever have before. While I have often given something up for Lent, most of the time I view that something more as a challenge to myself than as a sacrifice that is supposed to help me unite my struggles or sufferings with the crucified Christ. But a convergence of events has given me greater pause this year.
Shortly after Lent began this year I returned to work after a nice, long maternity leave. About that same time I also started praying Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. My days are now very long, starting much earlier than I am used to and going until fairly late in the day. I am NOT a morning person and every bone in my body dreads the early hour at which I now get up.
I started Lent this year with the idea that I was going to give up chocolate. Again, it was one of those challenges to myself. As the season began and I had to get into a new rhythm in my life, I found that I was contemplating the Passion of our Lord in those wee hours of the morning when I had to drag myself out of bed to feed the baby before the rest of the household woke up. As I thought about what Christ sacrificed for us I realized how small and insignificant my “sacrifices” were. I also came to realize that my real sacrifices were being made for my baby. I was getting up for him when I would have much rather stayed in bed. I was breastfeeding him and thus giving of my body for him.
It is a greater struggle for me personally to get up early each morning and I have found breastfeeding challenging and very much a sacrifice as well. In this area, right now, at this time in my life, I do find myself looking to the cross more than I have in past Lents. Or really at any time. I dropped the idea of giving up chocolate for Lent. It was a simple challenge and not a struggle that was going to force me to look to Christ and unite those struggles with His ultimate sacrifice. No, chocolate was definitely not going to do it this year.
But as I struggle to face each morning, as I deal with the occasional pain of breastfeeding, as I struggle with latching, as I face the boredom of pumping during my workday, I find strength to carry on by looking to the cross. My sacrifices are still nothing compared to Christ’s, but they are definite struggles for me. I look to the cross and I know I can do these earthly things. The spiritual benefits seem much clearer to me now than in previous years.
My Lent has become focused on sticking to my new morning routine, which includes praying the morning office and getting up much earlier than my body wants so I can put it to work caring for and feeding my baby. And as I do these things each morning I think about Christ dying on the cross for my sins. I find that contemplating the crucifixion helps me get out of bed when I’d rather try to grab a few more minutes of sleep. Thinking about the torture Christ endured for us completely minimizes any physical difficulties I am experiencing as I continue breastfeeding. And praying the morning office reminds me to not just contemplate the crucifixion, but to rejoice in the Lord and all He has blessed me with.
In the end, this is what Lent is about. We spend this season participating in some small way in the sacrifice of the crucifixion so that we may rejoice at the Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. Maybe giving up something like chocolate or TV or coffee is a true sacrifice for someone that helps them to experience the sufferings of Christ. I’m realizing that those kinds of things, while still hard, aren’t bringing me to a place that I need to be to fully experience Lent. Instead, my struggle to start my day an hour or more earlier than normal and spend time in prayer helps me to feel united to Christ.
I hope you are having a fruitful Lent and are finding ways to be united with the crucified Christ in preparation for the joy and praise we will experience on Easter. I pray that whatever your sacrifices are, that you can stay strong and persevere through the rest of this Lenten season.