Being attentive

Many years ago my friend Ron DelBene said prayer is basically attentiveness. I believe the point of Lent is to be conscious, to be aware.

Lent is not about being more religious by the observance of a ritual or by giving up something or by taking some noble acton. Those are all well and good, but the essence of Lent is underneath it all. It’s to be awake.

Lent is about being alert for what’s going on inside us and around us. It’s a season for self-reflection, for making (in “Twelve Step” language) “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

Lent is about engagement with our deepest self, our neighbors and all of creation. Erich Fromm said the Sabbath is about harmony, and in that sense, Lent is an expression of Sabbath.

The Book of Common Prayer includes a Prayer for Ash Wednesday (p. 264). A serious moral inventory leads to some degree of “lament” and some sense of “wretchedness” about our personal pain or about suffering in the world:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“Ash Wednesday,” (1855-1860), by Carl Spitzweg
Loyola Press (see interpretive video)

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