the penultimate WORD
for Lent - Now that March is behind us


Now that March is behind us things look different.  My earliest recollections fill March with a discipline that weighed heavier still on my routine as a youth.

I never knew what meat tasted like on Fridays until the half-cooked swordfish served during college days saw me head out to Hoggieís on Quinpool Road for something to eat, something that didnít have gills or scales!  Throughout the year I grew to associate the passage of time with the accumulation of bones at the edge of my plate on Friday nights.  And Saturday afternoons Iíd get on the bus and head across town to go to Confession.  The recurring pattern was familiar to me, and comfortable.  In the serene hush of the church, Iíd kneel beside the communion rail.  Father Young would sit inside the sanctuary.  At the prayer desk, my toes wouldnít even touch the floor!  The introductory formula was typed and placed on the prayer desk.  I read it and then Iíd rehearse specific things I could be indicted for in the courts of heaven.  At an early age I had to work at this. There isnít much thatís carnal in a seven-year olds life, you understand.  But relief!  I was fairly good on disobedience and it served me well.  Whenever I ran short of things for which I might show contrition, disobedience always came to my rescue.

In March I was more heavily laden because of Lent. 

However you figure it, March is a Lenten month.  It also happens to be the month of my birth.

Confession came easier in March.  I had more to confess, much more!

I can remember having only one birthday celebration throughout the course of my youth.  Donít misunderstand, my birthday never passed without observance.  But there was only one occasion when it was greeted with unbridled celebration: games, ice cream, cake and candles.  On the other occasions marking my nativity, the event was much less celebratory. 

Others, friends of mine growing up, had birthdays in other months and they celebrated with the abandon not known in Lent, not known in March.

March greeted me with fish fillets, Saturday shadows kneeling beside my priest, and an austerity associated with my birthday that has made me the sober, reflective person I am today.

My Lenten discipline prevented me from going to the Kent on Coburg Street to see Randolph Scott brandish his six shooters in the weekly westerns.  For the duration of the season I had given up the matinees at the Mayfair on Waterloo Street featuring the Bowery Boys.  I was left to a more philosophical bent, the weather!  The acceptable wit of the day couched itself in the proverbial wisdom familiar to us all. 

If March comes in like a lamb, weíd say, then itíll go out like a lion; and if it comes in like a lion, then itíll go out like a lamb.  We are all familiar with the wisdom of the ages.  My folks taught me; I taught my children.  Itís familiar folklore and we repeat it annually.

And, it has occurred to me, we repeat it in error.

March has helped me here.  March the Lenten month.

The more sagacious I have become, the more I have come to realize that our proverbial aphorism for March has nothing to do with the weather.  It has everything to do with the month, being the Lenten month.  More specifically, it has to do with Jesus.


For you and for me the month will go out as both Lamb and Lion: the Lamb of God drawing ever so much closer to the Passover, the bleating of sacrifice filling the Temple precincts, the sacrifice of Jesus on Golgotha; and at once also ever so much closer to the Lion of Judah, rising triumphantly on Easter morningÖ signaling victory.  The Lamb and Lion integrated and One.

The divine mystery of the Paschal event provides us with a truth we might otherwise avoid by waxing on about sleet and snow and rain and blue skies.

Randolph Scott and the Bowery Boys, cake, candles and ice cream pale in the divine mystery of the Paschal event that has sustained me, and so many others.

Now that March is over, things really do look different!


Copyright © 2001 James T. Irvine


Series 2001

the penultimate WORD Lenten Series | Ashes to Easter