Sacred Writing of God (An Experience of Lent)

A kind parishioner brought me to visit an elderly lady whom I hadn’t seen for a few years. She was the essence of elegance in the past and retains it now in the present. And in her solitude she lives a strong interior life.

I brought her Holy Communion which was a delight for her. She was like the Greeks in the Gospel who said, “we would like to see Jesus!” (John 12) And see Him she does in this Holy Communion, as we all do, with the eyes of faith, the eyes of her soul.

Observing her in that sacred moment was inspiring, moving. Having received her dear Lord, she joined her hands, closed her eyes, looking for all the world like the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Then she seemed to move deep down into her interior where something special was taking place and, when she eventually opened her eyes she said, “I heard the sound of Angels singing.” Beautiful.

It seems to me that Jesus in the Eucharist touched that place in her heart where God had written His Law, His Word. That sacred writing of God spoken in the Prophet Jeremiah, “deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their heart.” And the purpose of that writing is that each of us would come to know God in a way that is personal and not taught. “No longer will it be necessary for neighbour to tell neighbour, ‘learn to know the Lord.’ No, they will all know me from the least to the greatest.” (Jeremiah 31)

We may not hear the voices of Angels in the moment of receiving Holy Communion but there is for each of us an encounter to be experienced, a Word of God to be understood.

Like many people I have met this year, Marie is living a Lenten Season not of her own choosing or making but a Season given her by God.

People speak regretfully about how they have not been able to do their usual Lenten practices because of sickness, age, grief, or some other suffering.

As a boy and young man, I was fairly heroic and victorious in my approach to Lent. I decided what needed to be done and did it faithfully by the grace of God.

But there came a time, about twenty years ago, when I was in a very desolate place, spun out, maybe even broken down. I had become a penance to myself and others. There was nothing I could do or give or even be. I was nothing. A failure. And failure seems a tame word for it.

So, I sat in silence and asked God what He wanted of me. He remained silent, as silent as He was on Golgotha. But then a Word began to stir. It was Jesus saying, “abide in me as I abide in you.” (John 15:4)

This would be my Lent – living “in” Jesus as He lives in me. Being attentive to this reality, this great mystery, not of my own making. Abiding is not something that one does; it is a state of being.

In this state I remained for weeks. This state of being permeated all my activities. It was my atmosphere.

Then another Word stirred. It was the voice of God the Father saying, “You are my Son the Beloved; my favour rests on you.” (Mark 1:11) This is spoken to Jesus, and it is spoken to me “in” Jesus. I hear it from within Jesus.

And there I remained until another Word rose up from the heart of Jesus in me – and from my heart in Him. It was the response of the Holy Spirit crying out, the Holy Spirit enabling me to cry out “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15)

These three Words became my reality, my prayer, my Lent, my Easter, my Life. It is not something I do but something that is done in me by God. It is the prayer of the Most Holy Trinity.

It is there when I want it and it is there when I don’t. There in my battles with self and sin. There in the trauma and the tragedy. And it is there in the victory. It is itself the victory.

To those who discover that they cannot do Lent in the way they like, I suggest they simply ask God what He wants and then trust that He does what is necessary. To those whose Lent is a visitation of suffering, a Gethsemane, I say that this suffering is God’s way of writing His Word most deeply in their hearts. The instrument of God’s writing is said to be the sharpest of diamonds; it is an engraving of God Himself on our deepest interior.