The Divine Hours of Lent

Sam and I have been married for almost fifty-three years. To make the thing even worse, we have known each other for all of our combined hundred and forty-nine years. He was precisely one on the day that my parents introduced us by placing precisely two-weeks-old me in the bassinet beside his in the Cradle Roll Nursery at First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City, Tennessee. Dull as it may sound, the deal was sealed right then and there. Like every good knife, this one cuts two ways, of course. There are few or no surprises after all these years, which can be annoying or at least productive of a certain kind of ennui. On the other hand, there is a union of our person-ness that is somewhere between that of Siamese twins and that of an old, but thoroughly grafted tree whose two parts are indistinguishable, one from the other.
Over the course of our fifty plus years of grafting, we have had seven children, one of whom died in infancy. Of the other six, one has topped fifty herself, and another is pushing it. A third is holding on to her early-forties status with a certain tenacity, while two of the boys are beginning to speak of occasional gray hairs and evolving bald spots. That leaves the youngest, the last one to come among us, and herein lies today’s blog.
Easter is what the Church calls a moveable feast. That is, unlike Christmas, it never occurs on the same physical date on any two consecutive years. In the beginning, Easter in the West was like Easter in the Orthodox tradition still is. It was tied to the liturgical year of the early Church, which really means that it was tied to the liturgical year of the Judaism out which the Church came. Over the centuries and after a number of unpleasant brou-ha-ha’s, all of Western Christendom finally settled down into the system we now have. All the branches of Latin and then Protestant Christianity settled on the astronomical truth of the thing.
There is for me every year a certain kind of deliciousness…perhaps the word is perversity?…in knowing that the moon and her turnings establishe every year the date of Easter and, by counting back, the dates of Lent. That is, Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, which translates to the fact that Easter is almost never as early as it is this year and, accordingly, neither is the commencement of Lent. And that translates to the fact that almost never do I get to wish our seventh a Happy Birthday within the days of Lent and, so far as I can remember, never before on a First Sunday of Lent.
But it’s 2008, the holy season has already begun on this, the 10th day of February, and my heart, along with the hearts of her father and her siblings, says:
Happy 33rd Birthday, Rebecca. May all your years be as blessed as is this day and as this time of sacred preparation.

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