February 23, 2010

Rending the Heart

The prophet Joel hit me hard in the reading for Morning Prayer today: "Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord your God."

Over the years, how many of my attempts at Lenten observances have been a rending of garments, that is to say externals, that did not serve to rend my heart! Even when I succeeded in observing Lent according to the practices woven together in my pious imaginings--and perhaps especially when I did--sometimes these things did not serve to further break my heart at either the suffering of the world or my own sins!

The presence of sin is not what distinguishes us from the saints, despite the worldly imagination that opposes 'sinner' and 'saint.' The difference is that the saints were brokenhearted at their sins in a way that we have not yet consented to.


Warren said...

One way for me to rend my heart and not my garment, is that I decided that my blog was too much of a temptation against charity. I would always want to whine on there. And there's nothing worse than whiny conservative religious people. So, for Lent, I have shut one of them up. :-)

I'm not suggesting anyone else imitate me, nor am I intending for this to be a general commentary on blogs. It was a particular way for me to listen to a little red flag that my conscience was waving.


Brother Charles said...

Those "little red flags" have such utility in our spiritual lives. One Lent during studies I fasted from the internet, except for use that was directly related to my assignment and obedience in the Order. News, weather, fun and games, idle surfing, all gone. It was a good practice.

Margaret said...

When our heart breaks at our sinfulness is when spiritual transformation occurs? We might then pray for a broken heart, i.e., to see clearly our sinfulness and to feel the injury our sin causes God, ourselves and others?

Qualis Rex said...

Thanks for this, Father Charles. I tend to fast pretty hard during Lent (the Benedictine fast). And because of the lack of food and energy, I can get pretty cranky when dealing with specific personalities. Your post serves to make us remember that doing the externals is supposed to bring us closer to the divine, but shouldn't be done at the expense of living the rest of the gospel.

Kevin F said...

That certainly is a powerful reading, and I appreciate your brief reflection on it. I have been thinking as a result of what you wrote that one of the errors that I tend to get into (maybe "error" is too strong a word) around Lent is the desire to jump into the deep end of the pool. Sometimes I approach Ash Wednesday like its going to be the start of a triatalon of holiness: I'll give up, drinking, trashy novels, say a rosary a day, eat no junk food, save money for charity, refuse to go shopping. Then, when I only manage to do half of these things (and those not very well) I get discouraged and "down" on Lent. For me, "Rending my heart" can be starting with something as simple as promising not to forget Morning Prayer, setting a date to go to confession, or making sure I observe the Friday fast. From there I work my way out towards Holy Week. I find that by taking it slow, I am more focused on God and less focused on being "Super Christian."

Brother Charles said...

Thanks, friends. Your devotion and fervor give me encouragement.