Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Old Skins, New Wine

by Ann Cavera



What if Lent is about more than those lofty commitments we are doing our best to keep? Every year we struggle to keep our Lenten commitments, often with varying degrees of success. By Easter, we realize we are still much the same people we were before Lent began. At our age, it sometimes feels as though we've been trying to pour new wine into old wineskins.

After many years of struggling with habits, we wonder if it might be better to accept the fact that the old skins aren't going to change. Instead of pouring new wine into old skins, wouldn't it be better to allow the Holy Spirit to pour in more of the fine aged wine of grace?

The older we become, the more we realize we can only increase if we are willing to let go of our human agendas and images of who we think we ought to become. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to come closer to realizing the dream God had in mind when he created us.

That can happen only if we are willing to clear out some of the clutter we carry within. We have become a culture that makes the trivial a priority. Entertainment, shopping, magnifying of personal problems, and being busy in the name of being productive keep leading us down dead-end alleys.

Some time ago, we decided only four things are necessary for deep spiritual growth: prayer, commitment, surrender and forgiveness. In God's realm, everything good begins with prayer. By prayer, we maintain a deep connection to God's will.

Commitment leads to a focus on God's priorities rather than our own. Surrender creates an emptiness that allows the Spirit free reign to take us in meaningful directions. Forgiveness pours the fine wine of God's grace through us and into the lives of others.

Perhaps many of us began this Lenten season by looking in the mirror and trying to do something about the "old skin" by vowing to give up bread and sweets. However, as a friend once said, "What good is Lent if we can hardly wait until it is over to get back to where we were?"

Old patterns are like bunions. Our shoes can't get rid of bunions and so the shoe stretches, making a little pocket to keep the bunion comfortable.

Lent means letting go and making a fresh start at living in a simpler, more meaningful way. This season is about being open to new possibilities, gaining a fresh perspective and setting our feet permanently on a different path, with or without those bunions. In this Lenten season, we still have time to make room for the fine aged wine of the Spirit until the old skins burst, spilling God's kingdom all over the place.

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.