In our journey through the Seasons of Advent and Christmas, we discovered that, in spite of all we have received, our efforts at holiness are ineffectual. We recognized that we are still living a lie. Instead of relying on God and giving him the glory, we take the glory to ourselves.
We arrive at Lent as humbled sinners. The Season is meant to take us into our hearts, into the hidden sanctuary of our souls, into the subtle places of our conscience where we have our deepest secrets. We will not reveal these places to anyone, not even to ourselves. As such, the heart is the place of greatest deception. Scripture says: “More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). The heart is caught in the problem of sin, and the power of darkness plays there. Satan presses at the door of our hearts and in all the other areas of our fallen nature. We are victims of original sin, and we carry the effects of it in our hearts to this day. It is deeply rooted in us, and we cannot go beyond it unless we enter profoundly into the victory of Christ on the cross.
Lent gives us an opportunity to receive a “new heart,” to become what we could never become on our own strength. To properly enter into this Season, Mother Church enjoins us to put on the mind and heart of Christ. To do this, we must “empty ourselves” (cf. Phil 2:5 7). She tells us that we can do this by following her Lenten instruction. From the start, she places before us some practical helps to empty ourselves, to attain a true conversion of heart. These are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. She would have us understand that these practices are types of exterior and interior renunciations, not done for their own sake but to cut deeply into the flesh, and thus to “put to death everything that is rooted in earth” (Col 3:5). She exhorts us to “rend our hearts, not our garments, and return to the Lord, our God” (cf. Jl 2:13).
The Lord means to cut deeply “with a two-edged sword” (cf. Heb 4:12) into the heart, into the conscience, into the deepest recesses of our soul, to bring us to true repentance and into his reconciling love. He means to transform our person into his, free from sin and full of grace, the grace which he won for us on the cross.
Mary, the pure one, takes us into the heart of our Lenten journey. She will guide us into a transformation of heart, that we may love the Lord and our neighbor in sincerity and truth.
From the writings of Fr. Francis J. Marino
Founder of the Anawim Community
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 15, no. 3. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.