This Campaign of Christian Service

Maybe because of the areas where much attention has been drawn of late, something stood out to me in the collect of this morning’s Ash Wednesday mass.  The prayer begins,

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service…

The word “campaign” immediately brought to my mind a political or advertising campaign (which have become almost the same thing these days).  The contrast made me smile, as I realized we were entering a season of humility and self-denial, something more like the opposite of what the secular world tends to mean by campaigning.

The language that followed suddenly gave the word a more military overtone:

…so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

But again, this is a radically different kind of battle.  As St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood.”  Like the self-emptying that leads to the cross (see the great Christological hymn of Philippians 2), it is against the forces that tempt us toward the dark side of our human condition that self-restraint becomes our weapon of choice.  It is the only weapon and the only battle that truly be called holy.  May this season of Lent teach us to wield it well.


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  • Frankly, although I disagree with you sometimes, I like the spirit and temper with which you write more and more.

    • Julia Smucker

      Knowing you as one not given to empty compliments (nor am I), this is high praise indeed! Much appreciated.

  • brian martin

    Ditto what Dismas said..I have to say that you have exemplified the both/and thinking, which I struggle with, coming from a fundamentalist background. I find that my black and white thinking (either/or) is hard to distance myself from, and I often find myself mirroring that which I dislike in more Orthodox or conservative Catholics – the idea that they (or i) have the “right” viewpoint, and those who disagree are somehow not as legitimate. I hope to let go of unhealthy attachment to my own opinion, and choose dialogue over argument. May you have a fruitful Lenten season

    • Julia Smucker

      Thank you, Brian. I confess that’s a lesson I have to relearn repeatedly myself.