With the beginning of Lent comes 40 days of waiting. And depending on what you are sacrificing, it may seem more like a lifetime. But in reality, 40 days fly by faster than Peter and John racing to Jesus’ tomb on Easter Sunday. For those who wait, take heart! Lent can be an opportunity to do so much more. Here is a strategy from a fellow sinner, so you can take full advantage of this Lenten season to pursue serious personal and spiritual growth.
As you may have guessed from the title of this blog, the strategy is reflection. I want to briefly explore self-reflection in Lent, proper ordering of self-reflection, and finally, reflection on beauty through art, poetry, nature, and people.
Why is reflection needed during Lent?
Since everyone has access to dictionaries, I will not offer Webster’s definition of self-reflection. Instead, I will offer my own definition of reflection for your consideration. For me, reflection is the careful consideration of one’s actions and reactions, to discern their good, and to be grateful for them. Or, by discerning the bad in those actions, resolve to never commit those errors again.
Living one’s life with no regular reflection and evaluation of one’s actions offers very little opportunity for growth. If we allow ourselves regular opportunities to evaluate our life, we are afforded many opportunities to commit to personal development.
There is much to be said for one such method, called the Daily Examen of Ignatian Spirituality. The Daily Examen is a consistent system used to reflect on one’s day and determine to do better the next day. Perhaps you do not have time for personal reflection at night, or you forget to reflect? I find it helpful to set a point in my daily commute to take out my headphones and just sit in silence for a moment of prayer, considering the day so far.
What is the proper ordering of reflection?
There is a story from Greek myth about Narcissus. Narcissus was a son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. A hunter from Thespiae, he was renowned for his stunning physical beauty. One day, he was lured by Nemesis to a body of water, and in gazing at his own reflection in the water, fell in love with himself. He remained there, unable to leave this perceived beauty, and lost his will to live.
While I am sure there are few reading this blog who would be so lost in their own perceived beauty, the legend offers some wisdom about how we should use reflection in our life. More often than not, when we are reflecting upon ourselves, we are disheartened with the sin we might see. In gazing at our reflection and seeing our many sins of omission and commission, we are in the same danger as Narcissus of losing our will to fight. In short, we may be easily discouraged when confronting our seemingly countless flaws in our human condition.
However, it is important to always see God in our reflections, as we are made in His image and likeness. To appreciate that good, it is important to see our good - not as our own accomplishment, but as a gift from God. In seeing the stains of sin, it is important to still see God - the loving father who is waiting with open arms to welcome back his prodigal child.
A Reflection on Beauty
Narcissus may have reflected on beauty and became lost in it, but it is our responsibility to appreciate and consider how beauty relates to its Creator. Fortunately during Lent, we have ample opportunity to reflect on beauty, since many of us will have more time on our hands after cutting out harmful or unnecessary habits. What better way to use this extra time than to take inspiration from God’s beauty in creation?
We all find beauty in different ways and locations, but here are a few places that I have found beauty that quickly link me to God.
In Art. One of my favorites is a musical masterpiece by Victor Bregeda called Sacrament:
“Twelve Barques surround a table on the water with broken bread and wine. There are spattering’s of blood from those who shared in this Communion. A ladder leads up to the table, representing a difficult climb to our heavenly feast. The wick of the candle almost seems humanoid, and one can see the sacrifice that is the wick, giving life to the Flame, the Light, shining bright and taking prominence in the image.”
In Poetry. The Anima Christi by Saint Ignatius:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.
In Nature. With more time during this Lenten season, please appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you. See the spectrum of blues in the sky on a stormy day. See the reds and the pinks and oranges in sunrises and sunsets. See the stars …. maybe not in DC, but somewhere. But look up and see what speaks to you of God’s magnificence!!!
In People. Reflect on the beauty of creation and realize that you play a part in it. When others see you, their eyes may be drawn towards God - towards beauty. Behave accordingly. See beauty in others, see Christ in others, and treat them accordingly.
Thomas Paine wrote in The [American] Crisis, “I love the man who can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.”
Grow brave in reflection, and grow closer to God this Lent.
Age Quod Agis,
Core Team- Liturgical Coordinator
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