Second week of Lent – Definition of Repentance

I wanted to share this helpful reminder again this year from Irma Zaleski’s little book.  It opens a perspective on repentance during this  time of self-reflection.  It is all part of our personal journey to greater righteousness.

“Repentance – conversion of the heart – does not mean being filled and tormented
by guilt. Instead, it means being ready to admit our responsibility for our actions
and our need for forgiveness, and having a firm wish to change our life: to turn
away from ourselves in prayer and in love. Repentance means, above all,
a constant, patient, growing in love. It means our willingness to open ourselves
to the work of the Spirit in us and to embrace fully the gift of our salvation.”
-Irma Zaleski The Way of Repentance 1999


I think I differ a bit with her statement when she says we are to “turn away from ourselves.”  I think it may be  semantics however for me, I understand the time we spend in our “closets for prayer and reflection” is allowing ourselves to listen, or a willingness to go into the depth of ourselves, not a turning away from ourselves.  I see it as a time where we can take the nerve to face our inner foibles, or errant ways.  I have found that when we rest in this kind of prayerful silence with a willingness to face the “boogeyman in ourselves,” as it were,  we have given ourselves the chance to own up to those aspects of our attitudes and behavior that are unrighteous.  The opportunity then we are allowing ourselves to take is to become more mature in our righteousness.

I do believe we cannot actually make this growth happen, but we can avail ourselves to the self-reflection, to that time of quiet introspection and allow  what is out of sync with a pure conscience (knowing right from wrong) to occur.   It is important that we must not quit, especially when the core reality of ourselves begins to emerge; as ugly as it may seem.  Because that is the precise time when the “turning” happens as we, of course desiring to be good, recoil from seeing ourselves in that unrighteousness and move quickly to the Light.

Thus the repentance process, the turning process is active Grace, and will lead to our regeneration not to dejection or guilt or fear.  The effort to stay in that light of knowing about ourselves in itself will help eradicate the wrongful behavior. Somehow, the mystery of transformation happens.   Growth is slow but steady,  just as when a bean seed grows under the earth before the healthy green shoots of leaf emerge into the open.  I think this reflection can encourage us to continue in the process of “waiting and turning” as we sit in these moments, hours, of self-reflection.

Caution, it does take guts and discipline and trust in the Divine for Grace for change and the grace to accept oneself in the midst of the slow process.  Forgiving ourselves may be the hardest thing to do ever.


Another Beginning is Before Us

We enter a new week of February in which some of us are in complete absorption with world politics, public economic concerns filling our minds, thoughts. Our conversations may be riddled with questions, and confusions, yet we hold assertions and assumptions of our own certitude. 

Others of us face this week as a beginning of a forty day retreat of sorts, a time of introspection, of cleansing, of refreshing, a time to actually do 'house cleaning' of our souls where we examine our motives, attitudes and actions and seek forgiveness and give forgiveness. A time to dissolve old resentments, offenses given and received, of hard felt feelings that seem to raise their ugly heads in our quietest hours, or are brought to the fore of our thoughts and feelings as we are in the company of certain people or family members. It will be our effort these next forty days of which we Christians call "Lent" or Easter fast, to stay focused and receptive in our inner thoughts and spirit.

We hope the result to be realized renewal but it comes with a conscious and physical effort of denial of pleasantries so as to sharpen our senses, sharpen our inner ears and eyes. This is so as to enable our conscious minds to see, hear while we ween out the chaff of our apathy and indifference along with any animosity and pet peeves. We work to clean it all away to enable us to receive and live with new conscious awareness of the "other" in a the fresh Spirit of G-d's ever present Love and flowing Life in us and "them."

To those people immersed in the politics, and economics of the world's daily life this process most often is seen to be nonsense and idiocy at its best.  This is again a driving wedge that separates the Christian believer who is actually making an effort to emerge through this life as a threshold of renewal, with those who are living in the self effort of daily existence.  The one living is only an existence with no future, whereas to the other this life is an opportunity of regeneration, a transformation that I like to name a threshold to a "large room." 

This threshold is our life here as we know it on this planet. It seems to me a way to express this is it is a space between the before and the after, that is an expression from our earthly perspective. Another way is to say, our life is the bursting forth of an embryo of life that is yet in its' womb– our world existence as we know it.  Whereas we move from this "existence" or "threshold into our "real life" where we will find our fullest beings. In other words we are now in this time within the transition, we are in the threshold; the fine space both invisible and visible whereupon we will emerge into One both visible and invisible with new attributes of the same resurrected life we witnessed in Christ Jesus.

It has become more than apparent to my conscious state that my own last thirty years or so on this planet will be in a continuing process of becoming more singular. I am single and singular and it is my desire to be one of a single eye.   In the not too distant past I would be labeled more likely than not a spinster. Those who might know of my personal spiritual commitment and practice would label me as a medieval woman Beguine. Modern life offers even more independence for women.

One fact among others making the Christian singular process so readily available is that those who are blood kin are distant in time and space, which is so often the situation with most modern families. Making the process less self energized, and one of acceptance. Moreover, each family or individual has a personal life style which is most often quite different from the others, especially motives and desires being quite different. This is exactly what separates families from closer interaction which can  divide family to family as well as divisions within families. 

Familial niceties are preformed on special occasions with due salutations and endurance of the time required to be together.  Each of us endures the fact that their inner needs for honest respect, acceptance, and love, which is expected with blood kin, gets glossed over or even drowned out, even though present in apparent formality but not founded in the heart. In some situations those needs may not be met at all by the offspring of the immediate family members. This phenomenon is expected.  Such as it is, we continue in our frail relationships as if we shared the deeper heart attachment and interaction.  Use or need of the other is not the same as the flowing current of love meeting each others deeper need of unconditional love and acceptance.

Our challenge is always as Christians is to accept our place as it is, however; to redirect our focus from our families, and friends, from seeking their approval or love, to rather looking for “the other” in whomever is present with us and serving them with this unconditional love.  We too are not to use our families or friends to simply meet out own needs.  To keep our focus on that which is the invisible tender reward will keep our affections on Life and not the "problems of life." This is the way to become singular. Can we emerge once again renewed with a single eye from these next forty days?

Grace be with us.

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