Mrs Beeton, in her well-known book on household management, wrote: ‘spring is the usual period set apart for house cleaning and removing all the dust and dirt, which will…accumulate during the winter months…’ A worthwhile spring-clean takes planning, perseverance and hard work. For us Ash Wednesday begins a period when we embark on a spiritual ‘spring-clean’. St John Chrysostom, by way of preparing us for the season of Lent, wrote: “When the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual springtime, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons, and as harvesters sharpen our sickles, and as sailors order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires, and as travellers set out on the journey towards heaven, and as wrestlers strip for contest. For the believer is at once a harvester, a sailor, a soldier, a wrestler and a traveller.’
We know, deep down, that our hearts are given over to a certain hardness and resistance to God and his loving plan for our lives. We need to be renewed and transformed because, in living our lives in the world, we get tired, weary and dirty. We need to be cleansed, purified and healed. As we undertake this spring-clean, we rid ourselves of all the clutter and rubbish in our lives that hinders and prevents us knowing God’s love.
The very goal of the Christian life is to love God. St Augustine once said, ‘In the long run there will be two kinds of people: those who love God and those who do not.’ Loving God is, then, our goal and our raison d’etre. We love God because God loves us: “The reason for loving God is God himself; the measure of loving God is to love him beyond measure’ (St Bernard of Clairvaux).
In order that we may better love the Lord our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we practise self-denial and acts of penance, and strive to reform our lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible the heart is understood as the apex or very essence of our being, and it is the heart that needs renewing. As St Benedict Joseph Labre once said: “To love God, you need three hearts: a heart of fire for him, a warm heart towards our neighbour and a heart of bronze towards ourselves.’
‘It is always springtime in the heart that loves God.’ (St John Vianney)
(Taken from Bible Alive for Ash Wednesday. I am grateful to Bible Alive for all their words of wisdom over the years.)
May each one who opens this message have a wonderful lent and as Easter comes close may each one come closer to the Lord in his/her life.
To help the Church grow in love and faithful witness to God, Pope Francis has declared the third Sunday in Ordinary Time to be dedicated to the Word of God. “The Bible is the most widely distributed book, but it is also perhaps the one most covered in dust because it is not held in our hand,” an archbishop said. Francis said, “a day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a yearlong event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. We need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, struck as we are by so many forms of blindness. The third Sunday in Ordinary Time falls during that part of the year when the Church is encouraged to strengthen its bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian Unity. That means the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.”
On the same subject from The Spiritual Way of the Carthusian Order ‘When Silence Speaks’ by Tim Peeters:
Nourished by the Word: lectio divina in the Carthusian order
According to Dom Marcellin Theeuwes, the rediscovery of the Scriptures is one of the greatest gifts for the Church in the past decades. Lectio divina, or the spiritual readying of the Bible, is
no theological or exegetic approach to the text, but rather a meditative reading in order to give one’s own personal existence an enlightened understanding about God, salvation, inner repentance and a conversion towards the Spirit. In the lasting contact with the sacred text, the divine and Christian significance of human existence and reality will slowly appear. One discovers how God really desires to meet his people. The biblical revelation becomes a personal revelation. God acts in the same way with all who are called by Him and at the same time He acts quite personally with each of them. The sense which is given to history in the Scriptures is also the sense of our personal life…In this spirit, the reading of the Bible received a central place in the life of the ancient monks under the magnificent name lectio divina. A divine reading not only of the sacred text, but through the text of your own person and life. The Spirit who inspired the sacred text transforms the Word of the Scripture into a personal Word in our heart. For this reason, the reading of the Bible was no secondary occupation for the ancient monks, but it unites with silent prayer as the two sides of a coin or as the same movement up and down. God and humanity, who search for each other and who speak with each other from heart to heart.