I have always loved fairy stories. I’m not talking about fairy tales like the Grimm brothers’ stories this time (although I do love them, too), but the old stories about the different kinds of fairies—like Brownies, Sprites, Will ‘o the Wisp, Jenny ‘o the Bog, etc. They are some crazy stories. One of my favorites is about what happens to people when they are put under a fairy spell—you could be walking through a forest, minding your own business and boom! You’ve stepped right in the middle of a fairy ring, and now you’re going to be stuck dancing until your boy gives out and you die. Or, you might be walking through a forest, minding your own business, and find yourself in the middle of a fairy celebration, and now the fairies will sit you down and make you think you’re enjoying a great feast, only to discover that you’re eating acorns, worms, tree bark, leaves and other awful stuff. The poor soul is eating forest garbage while thinking that they are having the meal of their life!
Two lessons can be learned from this: one is that forests are way more dangerous than people generally suppose, and the other is that fairies are nasty tricksters. Sure, they’re cute–Tinkerbell is the epitome of cuteness…but that’s part of fairy trickery! They give the appearance of sweet, innocent, helpless little things, but boy are they sneaky! In the old stories, the magic that the fairies use to make things appear other than as what they are is called, “glamour.” Glamour is a word we’re all familiar with—but we usually use it in relation to fashion. In fashion terms, glamour is all the fancy, sparkly clothes, hair and gobs of makeup that gunk them up to look fabulous. But, once the hair is washed, the makeup is off and the sweatpants are on, the people underneath are themselves again—flawed, blemished and sometimes pretty average-looking.
One of the promises that adults make at their Baptisms, parents and godparents make at their children’s Baptisms, and we all renew at Easter has traditionally (until the last translation came out) read thus; “Do you reject the glamour of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin?,” to which we all respond, “I do.” The glamour of evil. That’s so perfect. Whether its fairies, fashion, or evil, glamour speaks of that which is misleading and misrepresenting. Temptation and the Devil present things not quite as they are. They take a truth and twist it; they take a good bit of creation, and offer it to us broken, corrupt and misused. But, if we refuse to be mastered by sin, we will look at things and see them exactly as they are. You won’t mistake twigs and acorns for a feast, and you won’t mistake something that doesn’t belong to you, or isn’t good for you as something that will fill you.
Throughout Lent, the Elect (adults who were Catechumens and are preparing to make their Baptismal Promises for the first time at the Easter Vigil) stare sin in the face, scrutinize it, see if for what it is and ask God to remove it from them. This coming Sunday is the final of three Scrutinies, when they ask God to take a look at their hearts with them and ask God to remove whatever doesn’t belong there–whatever was disguising itself as useful, but was really preventing them from living fully; maybe some resentment, or judgmental tendencies, or addiction, or envy…We can use the remainder of Lent as a training period for us too—we can use it to get really good at spotting sin, stripping the layers of glamour off until we see it for what it is, and letting God root it out of us. That way, when it’s time for us to renew our Baptismal Promises, we can do it with sincerity, conviction and gusto; knowing that we’re nobody’s fool, but children of the light who make clear, life-giving decisions with purpose and intention. The rest of this Lent, train like a Catechumen.