Lenten loopholes and spring dancing

Someone posted this image on Facebook just as Lent was beginning. It made me chuckle, but I felt it was somewhat premature. The start of Lent is when we are at our most fervent and resolute. The headaches and cravings from giving up caffeine or smoking haven't yet started to kick in, and we still have high hopes of our anticipated growth in holiness, prayer, generosity and self-discipline - regardless of any stuttering or faltering in previous years.

But now we're well into the second week of Lent and the loopholes have started to creep in, maybe half-jokingly, but there all the same. Does chocolate mousse count as chocolate, do you think?... This must count as a feast day... This teeny deviation won't make a huge difference... And even without the loopholes, various resolutions fall aside, or maybe have barely got off the ground. The other day someone asked me how I was getting on with the book we'd each resolved to read: I was relieved when she cheerfully admitted that - like me - she'd stalled after a few pages (though, of course, I keep intending to get to at least get to the end of that first chapter tonight!)

But lest those loopholes get even bigger... the other day these words from St Madeleine Sophie reminded me that, of course, there is far more to holiness and Lent than a lack of sugary snacks, or pages read... A word held back, an act of selflessness, is more meritorious in the sight of God than depriving ourselves of an apple or a slice of bread!

And, of course, it can also be a good deal harder...

Meanwhile, today is the first day of spring. Our topsy-turvey climate means that - after unexpected warmth and sunshine in February - the magnolia has already been in full bloom for some time: now it's mostly grey, but spring nonetheless, with tulips, and trees beginning to froth with blossoms - so when I saw this cartoon it definitely seemed made for here, and for today! 

Happy continuation of Lent everyone, and happy spring. Even if you can't dance - enjoy the joy of the new season, and all the possibilities of new life, both within and around you...