I always look forward to the Great Lent because within me there is a child looking for the felt presence of God. I like pictures of the Guardian Angel and the Holy Family. I want to feel loved and cherished and guarded by the Ultimate and feel His ever present care. I want to be special to Him even while realizing that each one of us is special to Him.
It is all very well to say that the Triune God dwells in you. We know that it is correct in the same way as we know that an apple falls to the ground due to gravity; but that knowledge does not overcome our busy involvement with everyday life and in this business, we often forget that we are the temples of God. Gradually, as in the case of Jerusalem Temple and as so very often seen in our own Church, we compromise and justify and rationalize and allow buyers and sellers and commerce within its Holy walls and in the process, we evict the spiritually needy/ outsider who might have been looking at us for a sign of the indwelling of God. The Lent is the time when Jesus comes in and overturns the tables and casts out the traders.
Whenever I join in social chit-chat, I find that often the conversation moves to someone absent. Somebody comes up with an unkind remark about the absent person and even when I feel uncomfortable about it, or consider it unjust, I find myself either openly condoning the gossip monger or maintaining a cowardly silence. But during Lent, the daily prayers from the prayer book which is repeated morning, noon, evening and night makes me wake up to my responsibility before God. I remember the prayer on Monday Morning- Brother loving brother is the fasting chosen by me. Tuesday Night we pray `The fast / Lent which adorns our spirit with spiritual wings is this: Be wise, pure, and loving (paripaakatha, nirmalatha, sneham). Restrain your mouth from injustice and your heart from deceit. Love your brothers and respect your teachers.' I realize that without this, my observance does not reach the Holy God and my offerings are like those of Cain. They are impure and like grass which is burnt up by the fire of his Holiness even before it reaches Him, leaving nothing.
Each prayer is a wake up call. And fifty days of prayer coupled with abstinence, will surely build me up in self control and spiritual strength.
I am reminded through these prayers that all this work and the strength that I gain would stand me in good stead and may even save my life. It would help me become more pleasing to God and man as I would become a better and more honest person. It would cast out much of my negative characteristics and evil which now dominate my inner space. At least it makes me ashamed of myself when I join gossip even passively. I become aware of my poverty and ashamed of my apparel soiled by sin and deceit and long for the garment of light that God had initially adorned man with. It sounds so magnificent and perhaps it would make the rather plain and old susan beautiful and lovable.
I become impatient with my old mother's seemingly unreasonable demands and try to avoid her constant complaining. I forget her age, loneliness and illness and am wrapped up in my problems. I fear whether I would ever have the strength for the inner unseen warfare and learn to be truly loving and charitable. No gifts to poor homes can cover up for the unkindness to those closest to you- helpers,housemaids, children, parents, friends, neighbours.
I am greedy and attracted by the display of diamonds and silks and the smell of wonderful confectionery even as I realize that all these are bad for me-what with Bunti Chors and Diabetes and the need of others for sustenance before me.
I am often tempted to give the prayers and church attendance a miss. But once there, I feel a great sense of peace and realize that I would have passed by the blessings of Lent through my casual approach.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
God grant us poverty of spirit and a pure heart.