The penitential ashes were much in evidence in school yesterday, though there was not much sign of abstemiousness at lunch time.
Asking students, what they were giving up for Lent, the general response was ‘nothing.’
I once asked a friend what he was giving up for the season. ‘Sarsaparilla,’ he had answered, without a moment’s hesitation. ‘I never touch Sarsaparilla during Lent.’
Not being sure what Sarsaparilla was, I had made a lucky guess. ‘Is that like me giving up Irn Bru or Dandelion & Burdock?’
‘Exactly,’ he said, ‘stay away from the things that you don’t drink.’
We had laughed.
Lent always seemed to have that trivial dimension, people give up alcohol or chocolate or social media. Sometimes, I suspect the abstinence demands no more sacrifice than the soft drinks not drunk by my friend and I. The supposed spirit of the season doesn’t really affect the vast majority of those who would call themselves ‘Christian’
Personally, if a continuing non-consumption of Irn Bru and Dandelion & Burdock does not really represent a proper spirit of Lent, then the one thing for me that would have to go is schadenfreude.
Even the sound of the word has a certain satisfaction, schadenfreude taking a certain delight (or, indeed, sometimes a great delight) in the misfortune of those who have caused me hurt.
Schadenefreude is not entirely un-Scriptural, though the church tends to avoid the bits that relish revenge as a dish served cold. Psalm 36 may be used in churches, but there is a tendency to leave out Verses 11-12,
May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
See how the evildoers lie fallen—
thrown down, not able to rise!
There is a tradition in the Hebrew Scriptures of smiting one’s enemies, though even in then there are verses to the contrary, like that from Proverbs which says, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.”
Of course, for observant Christians, Jesus makes it clear that not only should they not be in the business of smiting anyone, but even the stuff that is most hurtful should be forgiven.
However, not being very observant, I can hold a grudge indefinitely. As Padraic says at the end of The Banshees of Inisherin, ‘Some things there’s no moving on from, and I think that’s a good thing.’