Ash Wednesday 2014

There’s a phrase St Benedict uses in his chapter on Lent that I have always found very helpful: cum gaudio Sancti Spiritus/’with the joy of the Holy Spirit’ (RB 49. 6, alluding to 1 Thessalonians 1.6). Whatever we do or don’t do by way of Lenten offering or penance is to be accompanied by this joy. Moreover, we are encouraged to ‘look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.’ (RB 49.7) What exactly is this joy, and how are we to find it in the midst of all our penitential gloom?

I think the answer lies in what St Benedict says very clearly Lent is all about: living with great purity. It is not so much a question of adding on or giving up this, that or the other as seeking to be more focused on whatever it is we are asked to be or do by virtue of our vocation or state in life, listening for the word of God in any and every situation, giving Him time in a way that we do not always do. Lent is a joyful season in the monastery because we live it with great simplicity. All the accretions of other times fall away. Yes, it can be difficult. We can feel cold and hungry and terribly tetchy. We have to plumb depths of self-knowledge we would much rather not know about. But we also have the opportunity of going out into the interior desert of our lives and learning to know and love God as if for the first time. It is a great and joyful privilege. May you be blessed with the same joy in your own life.

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5 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday 2014”

  1. Dear Sr Catherine – I wish you too many blessings this Lent. Thank you for all you share with us, especially (and particularly of late) what you’ve shared of your own “journey”. With love and prayer and many grateful thanks.

  2. Sister Catherine. Today I begin the next part of my journey home and submit my body to chemotherapy. I know you also have undergone medical treatments and continue to do so , so I feel a fellow traveler in this and also in your great faith which I ijn my small way try to follow. Fr. Benedict is always near, encouraging, expecting our best and teaching us to ‘listen’ as a child.
    I pray for you what I pray for myself -Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done- and hold you in my prayers as I wander the wilderness of my heart this lent. May I find Jesus in that wilderness waiting for me and sharing His angels of ministry –of which you are one.

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