Cynthia Bourgeault in The Wisdom Jesus invites us to embrace not the Easter Feast, but the “Easter Fast.” Of the 50 days of Easter, she says:
If we really understood what is at stake in this season—and what is spiritually possible during these exquisitely turbo-charged days—fasting would be a small enough price to pay. The window of opportunity is fairly narrow, but the opportunity itself is boundless.
Back in the day, I was a blues guitar player eeking out a living in New Orleans. Following the lead of band leader, Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone, I would fast every Lent. No booze, no cigarettes, no fried food, no meat, no sugar. For a 20-year-old blues boy—this was a desert, let me tell you. Every Easter eve we would play at the Rivershack Tavern down by the Levee and the rows of Tequila shots and several decks of smokes would be lined up for the stroke of midnight. An early morning breakfast at a greasy spoon and some Hubig’s pies before tucking in mid-morning.
After a white-knuckled 40 days of self-denial, we held our breath and dove back into the deep end. Until Ash Wednesday 320 days later, I forgot how to breathe.
Lent is NOT meant to be that. Lent is not a time of self-punishment or heroic acts of machismo self-control to be abandoned at the stroke of Midnight on Easter Eve. The great Passover, returning to the font, the restoration of our baptismal identity is our passing from death into life, from the isolated world of “me” and death to the “thou”—the Christ-centred being that is life. The journey of Lent is a journey of preparation and return to the font—the Eucharist becomes our participation in resurrection, the sustained life where we become what we eat.
The 50 days of Easter is our time to capture and live into that true life, to capture the momentum of the Passover into true life, where Christ is our every breath.
In a passage from the Letter of Pseudo-Chrysostom to Monks in discussing prayer we read “…Our heart must absorb the Lord and Lord must absorb our heart so that the two can become one…you are the temple.” Christ, who has burst from the tombs, trampling down death by death has made everything new, and opened the doors of the temple, YOU, to live in Him, forever.
This Sunday, we will hear about the disillusioned disciples going back. Returning to the life they once knew—they were fishermen, after all. After the great 3 days, it is easy to slide back, to forget, or become disillusioned. The familiarity of the old ropes, the creaky boat, the familiar patterns and relationships—“I’m going fishing.”
They catch nothing.
“Jesus said to them: ‘Cast the net to the other side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.” (John 21:6)
Of course, we do return to the old ropes and creaky ship, but we need to choose with or without Him. If we keep our eyes our hearts open—everything is filled with Christ. All is radiating with true life, claimed and blessed—infused with the divine reality. The kingdom is breaking into simple things like breakfast on the beach, fishing, creaky boats and even plain old bread and wine.
If we close our eyes, our hearts, we are in danger of catching no fish, or worse: plunging into the deep end, again, and forgetting how to breathe.