Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

Closing Time by Semisonic is one of my favorite songs. It was added as downloadable content to the game Rock Band 4 this past October, which of course meant I had to get it. I don’t play Rock Band all that frequently, but it’s fun to mess around with songs I really like.

Back when the song first came out in the late 1990’s, this was the lyric that really caught my attention.

When something good comes to an end, we are sad. We want good times to last forever. Children frequently cry when it’s time to leave a fun event (day at the park, time with friends, visiting relatives, etc) and go home. Adults have long since grown used to the sadness of endings, and are no longer devastated when “frequent” endings take place. But we still find ourselves emotional at infrequent endings.

The song is ostensibly about leaving a bar as closing time approaches. But as the quoted lyric indicates, there’s a deeper meaning to the song. Dan Wilson, lead singer of Semisonic and writer of the song, was inspired by the upcoming birth of his daughter. He used the image of people having to leave a bar at closing time to reflect on the major changes that would be coming to his life once he became a father. Many of the lyrics have that double meaning.

With the season of Lent having begun today, we have a beginning that has come about because of the end of Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time came about because of the end of the Christmas season. The Christmas season came about because of the end of Advent. And so on back in time.

Lent itself will soon end, leading us to the beginning of the celebration of the Triduum and the Easter season.

This is a time of preparation. Instead of looking at Lent as itself a new beginning, the Church encourages us to treat the season of Lent as preparation for a further new beginning. We prepare for the Easter season, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ, by calling to mind the death that preceded the resurrection.

But like the song Closing Time, there is a deeper meaning if we choose to look for it. Lent allows us to participate in a small way in the death of Christ through our penitential practices of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. We “die” to the transient things of this world, in preparation for eventually dying for real. And it is through death that the greatest new beginning of all will one day happen for the just: resurrection in Christ at the end of time, leading to a new heavens and a new earth.

When we give up something for Lent, we remind ourselves that we are not slaves to the good, but transient, things of this world. We can live without them. They are nice to have, but they are not necessary for our existence.

In giving up those transient things, we are reminded of the greater importance of that which persists once the transient has faded: love.

I pray that this is a fruitful Lenten season for all.