Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:11. The Book of Common Prayer, p.657).
The Psalmist in Psalm 51 is pleading with God for mercy and forgiveness. It is a recognition of our human mortality. We are sinners who need God’s grace and healing. Psalm 51 is about emptying the dirt of our personal and spiritual self and depending completely on God to redeem us. Is it any wonder why in The Rule of St. Benedict he prescribes that Psalm 51 (50 as St. Benedict used the Grail Psalms in which they were all one number behind our current English version) be used every day during Matins (or Lauds)? Esther de Waal in her book A Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on The Rule of St. Benedict writes, “The act of acknowledging my weakness and failure is not a morbid dwelling on sin but a turning in confidence to the God who sees a humble and contrite heart and is there to rescue me just as he rescued his people in the past” (p.79).
So what about a clean heart? The contemplative understands that Psalm 51:11 is a deeply prayerful desire in our heart by God’s initiative that lets go of everything we are holding on to in there; and trusting in God’s view point of our hearts; to make them a clean space for God alone. When we let go of all the stuff that weighs us down and crowds us in and put our trust in the Holy Spirit; God resides in there because the space has been cleaned out and made ready for the one who gives our hearts all that we need. Our hearts are made clean and ready to be occupied by its Creator and Redeemer.
What do you need let go of for God to come into your clean heart this Lent?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB