“The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:18. The Book of Common Prayer, p.657).
Almost anything including the human body can be burned and/or broken into ashes. It is a stark reminder that nothing is permanent. Everything and everyone eventually passes beyond our sight and becomes dust and ashes.
As we begin the Season of Lent on this Ash Wednesday; it is a good time to begin searching within ourselves to discover what is broken within and/or about us. Psalm 51:18 and Ash Wednesday tell us that it is okay if we are broken. God loves us and in Jesus redeems us as broken people.
“Lent is a good moment for a spiritual stocktaking; a pause, a retreat from life’s busy surface to its solemn deeps. There we can consider our possessions; and discriminate between the necessary stores which have been issued to us, and must be treasured and kept in good order, and the odds and ends which we have accumulated for ourselves.” (Lent with Evelyn Underhill, Second Edition. Ash Wednesday taken from the School of Charity, p. 15).
Praying to God from the whole of ourselves in Contemplative and/or Centering Prayer is our chance to take off the masks by which we think we are hiding things from God. Our sins and brokenness keeps us from a deeper relationship with God, only because we hang on to them within our false-sense of self. In The Rule of Saint Benedict he tells us,
“we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge in evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure,,,” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 49, p.71).
Notice that Benedict tells us that a good way to observe Lent is not just by self-denial, he also suggests adding on to the usual amount. Letting go is important, of course, but it must be accompanied by adding something that takes us to our true-selves.
During these days of Lent, we can offer our broken and contrite hearts to God; and let Jesus transform us to search for union with God within our essence; possessed by the Holy Spirit. This is not only contemplative, it is mystical. God sees our brokenness as opportunities for growth, not impediments to God’s grace.
4. The path you must follow is in the Psalms–never leave it. (From St. Romuald’s Brief Rule).
Have you considered offering God your broken and contrite heart during this Lent?
Peace be with all who enter here.
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB
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