lent 2021

goodfriday_chickadee_812x600 A chickadee perches in a tree on Good Friday of 2014, the day after the ashes of my parents were buried in the plot below its branches.

Lent ushers in hope. As my dad used to observe, the word Lent means “lengthening” — the days get longer, reaching out to the hope of resurrection. May hope sustain you on this Ash Wednesday.

Here are a couple of resources for the season of Lent (more to come):

one dark night…

One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
– ah, the sheer grace! –
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
– ah, the sheer grace! –
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
– him I knew so well –
there in a place where no one appeared….

Saint John of the Cross, The Dark Night, Stanzas 1-4

the value of trials

Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of DiscernmentSin obscures. So does selfishness. The cross purifies. All of us ordinary mortals are wounded, immersed in our own darkness. A healthy self-denial sensibly practiced and rightly motivated slowly lifts one out of his egoism, laziness, hedonistic inclinations. We are fitted to receive the clean light of the Spirit.

The saints invariably possessed a remarkable wisdom. Even the most simple of them were gifted with a penetration into reality and into the God of all reality that books and studies cannot produce. This penetrating gaze into the real was made possible by their prior purification. This must be at least part of the meaning of that mysterious saying of St. John of the Cross: “The purest suffering produces the purest understanding.” In another place the saint amplifies this idea when he remarks that “the purest suffering brings with it the purest and most intimate knowing, and consequently the purest and highest joy, because it is a knowing from further within.” One who lives the paschal mystery, life through death, lives more and more deeply and thus will see more and more penetratingly. Authenticity is begotten on the cross.

Suffering reduces us to our own ashes; it strips away egoism and makes love possible. A Scripture commentator can remark that “to be a ‘tried’ Christian or to experience the Spirit is one and the same. Trial disposes to a greater gift of the Spirit, for He now achieves by trial His work of liberation. Thus freed, the tried Christian knows how to discern, verify, ‘try’ everything.”

If adaptation to the modern world has actually meant settling for a more comfortable life, a rejection of the hard road and the narrow gate, it is no renewal at all. If updating in a religious congregation has consisted largely of mitigations, we have a clear sign of resistance to the Spirit of the living God. If the renewal of moral theology consistently means more pleasure and less sacrifice, it is no updating at all. It is a surrender to the world.

from Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of Discernment by Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M., “Moral Behavior: Cross-Asceticism”

Juan de la Cruz

Cross_iconIt’s the feast day of St. John of the Cross, one of my favorite spiritual writers of all time. (Doesn’t sound very detached, does it? Still working on that nada doctrine.)

I’ve created a multimedia retreat with Saint John of the Cross — and his Sayings of Light and Lovehere. It works well on mobile devices.

Also, I did a series of posts on John of the Cross during Lent of 2004. Here are the links:

Lenten retreat starts

Prologue to The Dark Night

Why is the dark night necessary?

pride

avarice

lust

anger

gluttony

envy and sloth

one dark night…

discernment of the night of the senses

how to respond to being placed in the dark night

fired with love’s urgent longings

November

A branch wields its way
toward the grey haze of an icy sky
stripped of its leaves,
with a golden pile of garments
at its base, shrivelling dry.

The branch is empty to be full –
barren, still it reaches,
still it forks its twigs upward
like a waiting hand,
to catch the flurries of December,
wet and heavy in the promise
of a splendor received, not produced.

But first there are the empty days
between foliage and flurries,
the windswept silence of winter afternoons,
the waiting for more than vacancy…
the outstretching toward the promise
of a gift, unknown.