Atheism, Beauty, and the Loss of Penance

Atheism, Beauty, and the Loss of Penance February 18, 2015

My young daughter, whose cuteness makes her look even younger, sat on the stool at the jewelry store, stone still, waiting for the two gloved salesladies to punch holes through her earlobes on the count of three.  Stoic child, but if you can read her you knew she was nervous.  This was something she wanted, very much wanted.  She knew it would hurt, because we all reminded her of that fact, repeatedly.  She also knew two other things: Her older sister had done it and she was just fine now, and that if you want real earrings, this is the only way to get them.

We are not, as a culture, so weak as we claim. We’re willing to suffer all kinds of penance in order to be beautiful, famous, or wealthy.  Ask me to sit still for half an hour in prayer, and I’ll explain to you that I’m really no good at that.  Ask me to sit still for hours on a plane in order to get to vacation, and I’ll remind you that it’s not that big of a deal, you can do anything for a while, the temporary inconvenience is worth it.

If you want to know what you love, look at what you are willing to suffer for.

The suffering we accept willingly is the most honest of measure of who we are and what we are about.

Happy Lent!

File:Maslenitsa kustodiev.jpg

Artwork: Boris Kustodiev [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Click through to read the explanation, including the link to what Maslenitsa is. Here’s the direct link to the image file, so you can appreciate the tremendous detail.



1. Simcha Fisher covers the tour of Lenten penitential options here.  Most important point:

Unless you’re a hermit, your decision will affect other people. The rule of thumb is that you get to choose your suffering. Not everyone else’s.

2. If you can only have one devotional for Lent for your entire household, you want Sarah Reinhard’s Welcome Risen Jesus.  Don’t mind the cute cover art.  It’s packed solid and won’t disappoint.  Why yes, when my husband announced late into Mardi Gras that he still didn’t know what he was doing for Lent, I put her booklet in his hand.  He flipped through and said, “Wow.  There’s a lot of good stuff in here.”  Because yeah, when it comes down to it, deep inside you stay eight years old for most of your life.

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