Into the Desert: Lent with the Little Prince
Saint-Exupery’s A Little Prince begins with a pilot unexpectedly finding himself in the middle of a desert, his plane having just crash-landed. Though he initially believes himself to be completely alone, he quickly finds this to be false, for a little prince from another planet stumbles across the pilot and chooses to stay with him for a while. During their time together, the pilot learns a significant lesson about what it means to be tamed, and that the necessity of being tamed in order to love. The little prince tames the pilot throughout the story, and the pilot’s experience of being tamed is very similar to our experience of Lent: we, too, find ourselves in a desert, for we enter one on Ash Wednesday when we take on fasting for forty days as Christ did. We are also kept company by a prince, for we do not enter the desert alone but with Christ. And, it is through Lent that we ultimately learn the same lesson as the pilot: that we are meant to be tamed, and that we must allow Christ to tame us, just as the pilot allows the little prince to tame him.
The story of A Little Prince shows that friendship is the result of this action of taming. Part of the plot involves a fox who desires friendship with the little prince, but to achieve this relationship the prince “must tame” him. “To tame,” as the fox explains, means “to establish ties.” Practically, this act of taming entails the little prince being “very patient” and “sitting down a little distance from” the fox initially, and then “sitting a little closer to him, every day…” This reflects the humility and the gentleness of the way that Christ approaches us: He comes to earth as a tiny baby, hides under the disguise of bread and wine in the Eucharist, so that there is nothing for us to fear, and so He is anything but unapproachable. Taming is then deeply personal, and a sense of belonging comes with the taming of a thing.
Just as Christ may move a little closer to us everyday, we are also called to tame ourselves— namely, our passions and inordinate desires— during this season of Lent. Doing so allows us to move closer to Him as He moves closer to us. We tame ourselves through our prayers, fasting, and tithing— through every Lenten sacrifice we make. It is far easier for us to reach Christ when we die to ourselves for His sake, when we choose to suffer for Him and unite our sufferings to His. It is ultimately this very act of taming that allows us to suffer for Christ because by being tamed we allow ourselves to be moved by Him, and also for Him.
The pilot learns through his friendship with the little prince that “one runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets himself be tamed,” for in being tamed one allows his heart to be moved in love for another. It is the very act of being tamed that makes this love possible, for taming, as this story shows, leads to deeply personal relationship. The kind of love which comes with such a relationship is what makes saying good-bye so hard for the pilot and the little prince at the end of the story. By allowing ourselves to be tamed by Christ, we guarantee our own suffering as He undergoes His. We cannot be indifferent to His Passion— we must let it cause us to weep, to mourn, to take a look at ourselves and acknowledge our need for mercy, for a Savior. We must allow ourselves to be moved by Him, by His love for us which is infinitely more than any amount we could ever imagine.
So, let us allow ourselves to be tamed by Christ this Lent. Let Him sit near you on the desert sand, and let Him come a little closer to you everyday. Let Him make you His friend, and know you in a deeply personal way— He so desperately wants to, so desperately wants you. Leave behind everything that pulls you away from Him. And, allow your heart to be moved by His, which beats eternally for you.