2/05/2008

Welcoming Lent

While everyone else was calling it Super Tuesday or Mardi Gras, here in Detroit we were calling it Paczki Day, when everyone eats the signature Polish doughnuts filled with jam. My girlfriend received her annual shipment of home-made paczki from her authentic Polish grandmother and described their indescribable yumminess over the phone [Truly, people, you haven't lived until you've had an authentic paczken from an authentic Buscha]. I ate my annual dose of raspberry-filled paczki yesterday; this morning we had ooey-gooey cinnamon rolls; and I spent most of the afternoon preparing a Fat Tuesday FEAST!

Last night, we watched America's Test Kitchen on PBS. They walked you through step-by-step the making of a grand, old-fashioned chocolate cake. My father was glued to the TV for the first time...possibly ever. Given that my chocolate consumption will cease for the next 40 days, I decided this would be just the thing to serve for dessert tonight--mmm...two layers of moist cocoa goodness surrounded by fluffy and decadent Ghirardelli frosting~~~

For dinner I roasted a chicken, prepared the Joy of Cooking stuffing recipe with fat renderings and fresh thyme off the stem, and baked sweet potatoes until the syrup seeped out. I served a soup course, salad course, dinner accompanied by chilled Liebfraumilch, and then brought out the cake from the fridge. The cold turned the frosting into fudge, but the frosting between the layers stayed creamy. There were 20 oz. of gourmet chocolate contained in that cake! What a way to welcome Lent!

I found this prayer from the Creighton website, and thought it highly suitable:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for it is from your goodness that we have this day
to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent.

Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat.
Today we feast.
We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us.
We thank you especially for one another.
As we give you thanks,
we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do.
As we share these wonderful gifts together,
we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those
who need our support.

Prepare us for tomorrow.
Tasting the fullness of what we have today,
let us experience some hunger tomorrow.
May our fasting make us more alert
and may it heighten our consciousness
so that we might be ready to hear your Word
and respond to your call.

As our feasting fills us with gratitude
so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us
a place for deeper desires
and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor.
May our self-denial turn our hearts to you
and give us a new freedom for
generous service to others.

We ask you these graces
with our hearts full of delight
and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead.
We ask them with confidence
in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

The website prefaced this by saying, "What's important is that we let our feasting anticipate our fasting. One way to do that is to begin to focus on the meaning of the day, when we first get up. It can create a sense of anticipation all day, that something very new is about to begin tomorrow."
I can attest to the truth of this statement. Dreaming about the cake when I bought the elegant, foil-wrapped bars of Ghirardelli semi-sweet last night; mixing the luscious batter until it was as smooth and thick as pudding; preparing the chicken and selecting the seasonings for the dressing--all this kept me in total anticipation. It truly felt like a big hurrah, thus demarcating the two days and making me excited to do this because I'm excited for Lent.

The excitement and enthusiasm is the same for both. Tomorrow will be a drastic day-- I will shave my beard, abstain from food, and receive the ashes. I can't wait to meet tomorrow! To renew once again my thirst for Jesus, to seek him anew, to make purity and ascesis the focus of my life so that Jesus will once again be the focus of my life, so that my obligation to the poor and suffering will become once more starkly defined. I love the liturgical cycle that allots for this journey every spring, that makes it real and felt in actual physical hunger. I found a great article about fasting from a Maronite Catholic. In the East, they stop eating meat and dairy for the entirety of Lent, which they call The Great Fast-- so they're kinda experts on the subject, unlike the sniveling whitebread American Catholics, myself included, who can't handle missing dinner once (we are so flippin' spoiled next to these folks).

I feel a bit like Jennifer at Et Tu, who is really entering Lent for the first time in her life [stop by and read her post in which readers comment on what they're doing to make Lent]. As a cradle Catholic, I've always known Lent, but I've never been excited for it in quite the way I am right now. I've never yearned for it as much as I have a chocolate cake. Praise God, from whom this realization- this blessing- flows!

1 comment:

Amy said...

On behalf of my Busia~A thank you for the kudos for the best paczki in the world!!!

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