The Crumbs under Thy Table: Lent is a Butterfly
No, this post is not about the typical image of a process, any process, as the transformation of caterpillar to butterfly. It’s more about Lent as a sort of non-process, that is revelation. The first Sunday of Lent I visited a friend’s Anglican church and heard a rather atypical sermon on lent not as rescinding, withdrawal, in short, asceticism, but rather as actualization—that is lent is not so much a season of fasting as a season of what feasting should authentically look like. In other words, lent is not the cocoon, awaiting Paschal emergence, Lent is when we emerge, fully formed and hungry.
But what form is this? It is a form that is “beautiful,” sure—the lenten mass with hymns and all, the absence of the Gloria and alleluia—but it is also horrific. Following something me and my roommate Kevin have been discussing (see his post here), I thought it seemed appropriate to comment on how Lent is revelation, that is, the pulling back of the cloak to reveal, well, our depravity, sin, and vice. Our horror. During this season the Eucharist-as-feast becomes ironic and uncanny—we become hyper-aware of our own shortcomings, confess and reflect, and even pronounce “we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under thy table” but yet, but yet—we eat god. Not just god—god as man. We become cannibals. No—that doesn’t quite capture it—we are revealed during lent to have always already been cannibals. We ask god to eat the breadcrumbs and he gives us precisely what we are really asking for, namely blood.
Which brings us to the carnivorous tendencies of some types of butterflies and moths. Yes, they are certainly pretty, but also they eat creatures—including interspecielly—ie, they are, what we tend to call, cannibals (certain butterflies appear also to be gynandromorphic which somehow seems relevant to mention). This is the sort of butterfly we are during Lent. Lent is not a moment of interior withdrawal, a sort of ascetic slavishness, but rather, the emergence, the exteriorization, of a “new” “species”—but that “new” “species” is one that has been inside of us all year, in the cocoon of regular time, brooding and sinister, awaiting its authentication and emergence. Lent is not a fast—it is a feast, a feast on the body and blood of our fellow man, because, as creatures of this world, we inevitably have a desire to feast on this world, destroy it for our own glory and desire. The god of Christianity, the god who became man, knows this, and gives us his flesh.