As it is the first week of Lent I am congratulating myself on the steps that I have taken to prepare well for Easter.
First I have made the usual meaningful but ordinary commitments towards keeping my Lenten resolutions. Here it is – already day two and so far so good!
Second, I have prepared a new batch of English Pale Ale which will be ready precisely on Easter Sunday.
You see, again I need to point out how Liberal Education endows its recipient with enormous power to face crosses and tribulations. It enables one to scan bleak horizons, scope out dark places, examine desert wastes and find the spark of hope, the point of light, the candle flickering ever so faintly at the end of the difficult path!
But in my case, I do not see a flickering candle at the end of this years’ Lenten journey. No, I see a burst of glory and the veritable Super Nova, that is Christ’s Resurrection from the tomb, and what’s more, I also see over two cases of a very fine Pale Ale, some of which will enable me to celebrate that Resurrection with more propriety.
Lent was specifically designed for brewing beer. The reason for this is obvious. Beer takes exactly 40 days (more or less) to ferment and grow from a weak sweet slop of “wort” into a fine, noble, life-giving, heart-cheering, spiritually-enhancing liquid – whose foam raises itself in the glass as does incense in the chapel. Forty days exactly! (more or less)
Of course we fast and pray for forty days first primarily in imitation of our Lord. And then of course we are reminded of all the things that foreshadowed our Lord’s salvific action: the forty years that the Jews wandered in the desert, God’s cleansing of the world with rain and flood for forty days and forty nights in the time of Noah, Elijah’s fasting for forty days at Mt. Horeb, the people of Nineveh who fasted for forty days in sack-cloth and ashes and thus averted punishment, Moses’ fasting for forty days on Mount Sinai.
But the same period of time is also roughly speaking an ideal space for brewing beer, and therefore I think it is obvious that this is a fitting thing for Christians to do in the first week of Lent.
I haven’t thought carefully enough about the spiritual significance of brewing beer. I am certain that St Paul would see a deeper significance than I since he was the master of seeing the invisible things of God through the visible things of this earth.
Now apparently the superstitious among us think that Hops brings peaceful sleep, prevents nightmares and encourages “lucky number dreams.” But the liberally educated soul knows better and sees a deeper spiritual significance in Hops. Hops is a “bittering” herb. Hops puts the bitter in beer, and therefore Hops is an excellent herb to contemplate during Lent. Hops is to beer what salt is to food. And Christians should be the salt of the earth! By a simple extension we might say that Christians are the hops of the earth!
You might think that it is a stretch to see spiritual significance in brewing beer. But who can deny the subtle likeness – although through a glass darkly- that the fermentation process has to the development of virtue in the soul. The Wort will now go into a dark place (near my furnace under a towel) where the yeast will gradually disappear and something more powerful will result.
I can’t wait for Easter!