Penetrating the Clay: Lenten Devotions in the Christian Life
Lent season is an intimate and solemn time. The religious observance prepares the participant for the joyful glory of Easter through rich and intimate experiences. These spiritual exercises and intimate experiences include prayer, penance, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial. Through practicing these spiritual disciplines the spell of worldliness is broken, the slumber of doubt is abandoned, the fatigue of sin is surrendered and room is made to house the glorious good news of a delightful and resurrected Savior.
God in his infinite goodness has through various means provided humankind with markers, tools, exercises to assist his children along our journey, to aid us in building our arsenal of attack and defense in time of spiritual warfare, and to train us for the contest of faith. Lent is a season when the dryness of daily life is transformed into a resurrection oasis. Our inward life matches the outward seasonal transformation we see all around us and mirrors the life given to the author of life when death was defeated. The grumbling and complaining that is associated with the old life is rooted out and new flowers begin to grow as prayer begins to water and refresh. The sights and smells of Lenten prayer offer a refreshing resurrection fragrance drowning out fleshly grumblings and critical complaints.
Self-denial penetrates through the earthen clay like a sapling. The world of wanton excess and insatiable craving cracks as the tiny singular thread of green nimble life reaches toward her sun. Again we mirror Jesse’s slender vine that death could not uproot and as we empty ourselves, deny ourselves, take our crosses in a world of ego and entertainment and humbling accept not my will but Yours be done we find our eyes open to another world. A world where suffering and hope collide in the eucatastrophe of a death that gives life and a sufferer ends suffering and reconciliation between the divine and human is perfected in the rending apart and abandoning of these things in logos God-man Jesus Christ.
The ego self is starved and the false self is denied its salt water cravings. Lent is the time when the sweet water of Self-denial ends in the victory of a new self. A new life. One satisfied. Lent is a time of discovery. The discovery is that there are many walking dead among us and at times rigamortis sets in on the most flexible among us. Turning our lives upside down and inside out is what really turns them rightside up.
In a world of entailment that seeks to doge fault, make excuses and skip responsibility the promise is an easy life but the reality to missing out on life all together. The easy life is not life at all. It is easy to be dead it is miraculous to live and supernatural to live again. The live again life is one where penance swallows up excuses and as each of us goes out to weep bitterly like Saint Peter we find the resurrection calling to us from the shore. Asking us to swim, and feed the lambs and love the life found in the Lord. To turn over from the death of finger pointing found in our first parents in the Garden to the prayers of blood prayed on behalf that we emulate in our penance for our sins.
Each act of penance wets the soil for trees of fruit to spring and be harvested. It is penance that produces the fruit of humility and humility to lay down our excuses and abandon our rights for the sake of life. The life of freedom in Christ and life of communion with his Holy Church, a life of fellowship in a world of separation. Penance paves the road for the living to walk on, together, in unity, in fellowship, in humility, together.
This Lent season make use of the tools our Lord and his Church offer to you. While those outside seek the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life meditate on Christ’s atonement. The day of the dead has become a shadow, a world of black and white colored in and shooed away from the breath of God. As God breathed into the nostrils and Adam became a living spirit, as the Israelites were saved through the Red Sea but the breath of God, and as the eyes of the Savior reopened and breath filled his lungs atonement won the day. It always does.
And as Christ gave his life away and won it back again, so will those who in the giving of alms will be given. Those who lose their life will find it. Those who seek shall find, Those who were dead will live. Oh death where is thy sting oh grave where is thy victory. It has been swallowed up and all the shallow shadows of winter’s cold are replaced with life, and lambs, and life in lent. May you have a life filled lent season.
By James Gill