“There can be no doubt that monastic life should always have a Lenten character about it, but there are not many today who have the strength for that. Therefore we urge that all in the monastery during these holy days of Lent should look carefully at the integrity of their lives and get rid in this holy season of any thoughtless compromises which my have crept in at other times. We can achieve this as we should if we retrain ourselves from bad habits of every kind and at the same time turn wholeheartedly to the prayer of sincere contrition, to lectio divina, to heartfelt repentance and to self-denial. So during Lent let us take on some addition to the demands of our accustomed service of the Lord such as special prayers and some sacrifice of food and drink. Thus each one of us may have something beyond the normal obligations of monastic life to offer freely to the Lord with the joy of the Holy Spirit by denying our appetites through giving up something from our food or drink or sleep or from excessive talking and loose behaviour so as to increase the joy of spiritual longing with which we should look forward to the holy time of Easter.”
-The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 49 (emphasis mine)
If I had to sum up what the past three years of walking with St. Benedict’s Rule have taught me, it would be this word: Wholeheartedness. That prayer should not be lived out in fear or in obligation but in a full resting hope in our Savior who invites us into his kindness. In wholeheartedness, we can receive our freedom with joy, we can cease striving because we know that God is good and is making us and the world into what we were always meant to be. In wholeheartedness, we are allowed to live fully in the present moment, practice thanksgiving and humility and kindness because we know who we are and to whom we belong.
In the calendar of our lives, Lent is the space set aside for the purposeful reminder of our need for Christ and the restoration he offers.
So how do we do it? How do we actually use this time so that we aren’t either living in guilt for what we should be giving up and are failing at, or living in pride for our own self-infliction? We remember that Lent is a season of the heart, not action. Action–self-denial, spiritual practice, the addition of sacrifice in our lives–is worthless if it does not flow out of God’s work in our own hearts.
There are so many phrases in this paragraph that speak to me today. Benedict calls us to:
- get rid…of any thoughtless compromises
- retrain ourselves
- turn wholeheartedly to the prayer of sincere contrition
- offer freely to the Lord with the joy of the Holy Spirit
Wow, can you imagine the change God might work in us during these 46 days if we made those four phrases our prayer and our desire? I’m sticky-posting those on my mirror this Lent. And I’m praying that wholehearted would be become the truest descriptor for my life with Christ.