“Crux Fidelis”, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent at Ephesus”, (2014)
Today (of course it will only be today for a little while) is “Ash Wednesday”, the first day of the Catholic season of Lent. Lent is about sorrow, contrition, and repentance. As I read it, the scriptural references are to “conversion”, “repentance”, and “contrition”.
As one ages (and we all do) the pervasive sense of sin intensifies (for me, at least) and becomes more personal. I find myself having difficulty believing that this all ends well and somehow I can recapture the vitality and spontaneity of youth if only I … (insert your favorite self help program here).
Where in youth one barely noticed sin, age gives an unexpected intensity and poignancy to my consciousness of “the sins of my youth”, as well as the more sophisticated sins of my maturity. That conversion, that realization, that rediscovery of a sense of sin, of how I have diverged, in my self interest and self love, away from the “narrow path” and along my own broad highway.
I find I have been too long on the freeway of life, blowing past numerous exits at a high rate of knots. It is coming time to “put some gravel in my travel” as the song goes. It’s time to start making a good confession.
“conversion”, “repentance”, and “contrition” … a recent scripture reading explained the sensitizing of the soul’s faculties to the clear realization of God’s most wondrous prerogative, namely God’s mercy, and the revival of our adoption by Christ who “desires not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Cf. Ezek. 33:11)
“this realization of mercy becomes the impetus of the soul’s advancement in virtue. the inspiration of its power for good, and its daily shield in its struggle for eternal life“. (John A. Kane, “How To Make A Good Confession”, pp 14)
“conversion”, “repentance”, and “contrition” … I am starting to see “conversion” involving a dawning awareness of one’s sinfulness, a coming of age, so to speak, where my soul experiences a dawning and ever intensifying consciousness of one’s preferential option for self worship, self gratification and of “sinning” in the pursuit of pleasure, consolation, satisfaction as ends in and of themselves.
The essence of this “conversion” being the turning of my soul and my faculties from sin towards identification with, and identifying of, the will of God, and a concomitant experience of remorse in understanding the lifelong predilection for self centered thoughts, habits, activities and attachments.
This is my soul’s ever intensifying awareness of the preponderance of self worship, self gratification, self aggrandizement, and the serious attachment to all things and experiences centered on healing the wounds of my self regard.
My self image to which I find myself inordinately attached … attachment … to all the things of this world, but especially those things and experiences which reinforce my self regard.
The contrition experience gives rise to a desire for repentance, atonement for past sins, a transformation of my mind, an up-welling of the supernatural drowning the natural in an intensifying struggle. How to atone? How to repent?
Repent, atone, by cutting adrift all those elements, all those attachments, which contribute to the healing of the wounds of my self love, the papering over of those ugly wounds inflicted by self worship.
Attachments seem to be a significant part of the framework within which I tend to view “reality” and is it realy real? As I have remarked before, some famous guy once said: “it’s what we don’t know that we don’t know that bites our ass in the end”.
I have great difficulty identifying and isolating attachments. This process has been greatly assisted by my now year long program of fasting … never realized just how much I was attached to food, until I started fasting.
Now it becomes apparent that all attachments hide like this, they hide in plain sight within the normal every day experiences of life until I isolate them by choosing a different direction for my habits, thoughts, actions. It is only in the contrast that I start to recognize the attachments of my life.
Thus conversion, contrition and repentance devolve into an internal discussion about real “reality” and how attachments seem to be the lens through which I interpret and act upon events and stimuli in my life and relationships … attachments … all the attachments …
So, how am I to move towards being detached from “the things of this world”, the creatures and treasures which I look to for consolation and pleasure when indulging my self gratification and self worship? It appears to me that the first necessary step to understanding reality is to accept and totally embrace the existence of my soul and to adopt, as my natural view of reality, my soul’s view of reality.
I think that, essentially, I have to embrace living in my material shell as a “soul”, as the ghost in the shell. The shell is not the “us”. The shell is just the collection of lenses and sensor systems for the self, but it is not the self.
I, We, the “Us” are occupying the shell and looking at, interacting with, and thinking about the material plane, and the “things of this world”, but as a soul, not as the shell … which is actually what I really am, that ghost in the shell is where that which makes me “I” actually resides, actually exists.
Is all my life no more than one night in a bad hotel? More thinking and more understanding required … until next time … something about about attachment and reality … what is actually important … my lifetime … or the eternal now?
Oh Lord, You have created me for Yourself, to love You and to enjoy You, infinite Good, ineffable Beauty; do not permit me to lose sight of this sublime end toward which I must tend; do not permit me to wander among the wretched satisfactions that vain, feeble creatures can offer me.