And so we begin, again, the forty days of finding our way back to the God who says, “even now, return to me with your whole heart . . . rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord, your God.”
I have always appreciated that idea of “rending” the heart. Take your hands and tear it open, and expose yourself to God, willingly, needfully, humbly. Open wide the heart; let the poisons that have hardened it or fouled its workings drain out. Make room for God, who will replace our stony hearts with flesh, and renew our spirits.
We dare, today, to make ourselves openly vulnerable to both God and Man; Christ claimed us for himself at baptism, and today we proclaim him outwardly, unambiguously, and there is something about those ashes; they are both primal and counter-cultural:
As Christians, we are called to declare ourselves for Christ, but in life, in the day to day, we are seldom in a position to do it. It’s not something easily worked into most conversations, you can’t really carry on about Jesus while you’re in an engineering meeting, and if we try to proclaim Christ “by our actions”, well…that can be easily misinterpreted from “that kid is a nice kid because he loves Christ” to “that kid is a nice kid because he is a boy scout, or because his parents raised him well…”
With ashes, there is no room for misinterpretation. There are no “maybes.” This person stands before you, declaring himself or herself as belonging to Christ. Maybe not the best person in the world. May there is a struggle going on. We are all faulty humans, and none are perfect save Christ…but you look up from stirring your Starbucks coffee and you see someone wearing a big, black ashy cross on their forehead, and you know. The world knows. Another one for Christ. And another…and this kid over here – the big, brawny kid, with the great smile and the pleasant manner…he belongs to Christ, too. And another. And another…
Fr. Barron on the purpose of Lent:
The instinct and language of repentance.
And after repentance, there is confession. Here is a primer on that. I like confession; it’s always been a net-joyful experience for me. Seems NYC is going to have confession available around the clock in March!
This is a cool idea: Your 3-Minute Daily Retreat. Perhaps something to share at work? (H/T Reader Terri)
This sounds whimsical, but it’s kind of lovely Lent in a Tent
Preachers must be careful what they say for people are listening…especially little people. So Ash Wednesday came and went and then on Friday I had a phone call from a young mother of four children. “Father, I wish you hadn’t preached that homily on Sunday,” she said in a tone of slight exasperation. “Because Philip has decided to spend Lent in a tent.”
Deacon Greg shares his homily for the day:
…yes, this day is about ashes. But Lent? Lent is about that fire.
And a poem.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s new book, The Gargoyle Code looks to be useful Lenten reading; he writes in the tradition of The Screwtape Letters, and the work is witty and rewarding, although for some reason, in my head I hear the demon Slubgrip in the voice of
Professor Robinson Dr. Smith from Lost in Space:
“Ashes! They want ashes! I show the nauseating chimpanzees ashes – but not before they have some flames first!”
Another Lenten reading plan
What am I reading? Aside from Fr. Longenecker’s book, I’ve got a few other tomes to keep me busy. I had planned on reading the Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, but that got shipped to Buster at school by accident (or, as I thought to God, when I found that out, “really, God? An accident?“). I’ve got The Cloud of Unknowing and Bro. Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God at my bedside, and I also plan to re-read John’s Gospel, and (in keeping with my nagging themes, 1 Samuel.
But really it is the Breviary that has my heart and all of my attention, right now. Having used the Christian Prayer breviary for a decade, and loved it, getting hold of a used set of the 4 Volume Liturgy of the Hours has changed everything in such a powerful way, and that is largely due to the Office of Readings. I crack that Office open, daily, and its psalms and lessons are like drinking from a fresh and glorious stream.
Today, for instance, Pope St. Clement reaches across the centuries to remind us:
Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved. Jonah proclaimed destruction to the Ninevites, but they, repenting of their sins, propitiated God by prayer and obtained salvation, although they were aliens [to the covenant] of God.
The ministers of the grace of God have, by the Holy Spirit, spoken of repentance, and the Lord of all things has himself declared with an oath regarding it: “’As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘I desire not the death of the sinner, but rather his repentance,’”14 adding, moreover, this gracious declaration: “Repent, O house of Israel, of your iniquity. Say to the children of My people, ‘Though your sins reach from earth to heaven, I and though they be redder than scarlet, and blacker than sackcloth, yet if You turn to Me with your whole heart, and say, “Father!” I will listen to you, as to a holy people.’”
The scripture readings and sermons of the Liturgy of the Hours will be, I suspect, the biggest part of my Lenten reading, this year.
And prayer – lots of prayer. Liturgical prayer, contemplative prayer, and intercessory prayer, for lots of people. Today, we learn that Rod Dreher’s sister Ruthie has inoperable cancer. She is only 41 years old, and they are looking for a miracle.