To Be a Rock and Not To Roll
We’ve been in Mobile, home of the original Mardi Gras, for the past several days soaking up the revelry. I have learned some of the local terminology over the past few years, throwing around phrases such as “when does the parade roll”…”the parade rolls at six”…”is it still going to roll in this weather?” Well roll they did and our Mardi Gras culminated last night with the Professor riding in the final parade of the season. The parades rolled, the good times rolled. For days we’ve been awash in a sea of parties, parades, laughter, wine, rich food. Carbs galore. Rolls with dinner every night. Gasp!
But today is Ash Wednesday, the kickoff to Lent. Time for more substance, less saturnalia, more rock and less roll. I have never been one to “give up” something during this liturgical period, but I must admit, after our trip to Italy last summer I am newly inspired to engage in this program of atonement and self-denial. You see, when we were in Rome last June, on the next to last night of the vacation, my mother was telling us about these famous steps called the Santa Scala. Allegedly, these were the actual steps that Jesus climbed on his way up to his trial with Pontius Pilate. In the 4th century, the mother of Constantine The Great, Helen, brought the steps to Rome where they remain.
Helen bought herself a stairway to heaven.
To this day, pilgrims travel from all over to recreate the Passion of Christ and climb the 28 steps…on their knees. We were fascinated by this off-the-beaten path, non-Coliseum attraction and decided to visit The Santa Scala the very next morning. The marble stairs are now covered with wood to protect them, but there are glass cutouts so you can see through to the original marble, as well as the blood stains purportedly from Jesus Christ himself. Catholic tradition claims he climbed these stairs on his knees so the rule today is that you must do the same. In reverent silence the Professor and I knelt on the first step and began the ascent.
IT WAS HARD. As in, literally, hard on my kneecaps. I couldn’t believe how painful it was. On Step #2 I was reconsidering. Each time we had to move up a stair, it felt like a hard rock jamming into my patella, sending searing pain signals to my brain. But there was no turning back because there was no standing up, no rolling back down. It was a challenging and powerful drive to the top, and I had the skinned knees as a souvenir for days to prove it. And without question, it was one of the highlights of our trip.
It would be so glamorous to jet back to Rome for Lent and re-climb the beautiful Santa Scala with the other pilgrims moved to tears by the history and passion of the setting. But reality is, I am on my couch hunched over a coffee table, pecking away on the laptop trying to self-negotiate if I am giving up just wheat or all starches, and rationalizing whether or not wine really has that much sugar and truly needs to fall prey to this forty day purga.
Carbs and sweets are such obvious and banal targets. There are countless other weaknesses, evils, and wasted energies that could, and likely should, be sacrificed: gossip, swearing, caffeine, bad TV, social media, unforgiveness, over-spending, negativity, blaming, secrecy, denouncing Blake Shelton for sport. But I can’t take them all on, this my first pass at Lenten participation. For any hope of sustained success over the next sixish weeks, I have to be contained and specific. Baby steps. On my knees. For the long haul. Because in the words of Robert Plant, “a new day will dawn for those who stand long.”
See you at Easter, bread.