"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

05 March 2014

Ash Wednesday

From The Valley of Vision, excerpts from a prayer that seems appropriate for the beginning of Lent.  I am talking with some of my students about life issues this semester, and I always find myself fearful of my lack of wisdom and knowledge, praying that they won't remember all the wrong, unwise, unhelpful words that undoubtedly escape my lips.  As we enter this season, it seems the perfect time to reflect on that in me which led to the need for Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  So may I be open to uncomfortable glimpses of myself to the end of repentance and praise for mercy and grace.

Searcher of hearts,
It is a good day to me when thou givest me a glimpse of myself;
Sin is my greatest evil,
   but thou art my greatest good;
[. . .]
My country, family, church
   fare worse because of my sins,
   for sinners bring judgment in thinking sins are small,
   or that God is not angry with them.
[. . .]
Show me how to know when a thing is evil
   which I think is right and good,
   how to know when what is lawful
   comes from an evil principle,
   such as desire for reputation or wealth by usury.
Give me grace to recall my needs,
   my lack of knowing thy will in Scripture,
      of wisdom to guide others,
      of daily repentance, want of which keeps thee at bay,
      of the spirit of prayer, having words without love,
      of zeal for thy glory, seeking my own ends,
      of joy in thee and thy will,
      of love to others.
And let me not lay my pipe
   too short of the fountain,
   never touching the eternal spring,
   never drawing down water from above.

And because this is the season that leads to the Cross, some salient quotations from Richard John Neuhaus's Preface to his Death on a Friday Afternoon, reminding me of the wonder of God's great sacrifice in His love for us.

"Good Friday is the drama of the love by which our every day is sustained."

Good Friday is about "the meaning of suffering, of justice, of loss, of death and of whatever hope there may be on the far side of death."

Neuhaus says that in his book we will find "stories about people today who in their troubles find themselves, as they say, at the foot of the cross.  Sometimes they find themselves there in anger, sometimes in joy, but always in a deeper awareness of the mystery of their lives within the mystery of life itself."  This, at the foot of the cross, is where I need to find, to place, myself daily, not thinking I can possibly do the simplest thing without Him.  

"'It is finished,' Jesus said from the cross.  It is finished but it is not over.  To accompany him to his end is to discover our beginning."

May this Lenten season draw us all closer to Him as we remember why He came, so that our rejoicing on Easter may be that much greater.


William Luse said...

Enjoyed the prayer. Wishing a good Lent to a good woman.

Beth Impson said...

Thank you, Bill. These days I'm wondering if the second "good" has any merit at all -- but thank God it's not my merit in question!