Thursday, March 09, 2006

From the Thursday segment of the Great Canon:

Do not require of me fruits worthy of repentance, for my strength is spent in me. Grant me ever a contrite heart and spiritual poverty, that I may offer these gifts to Thee as an acceptable sacrifice, O only savior.

Any time you begin serious work on your spiritual life, two dangers arise. The first is a perception that you are failing; your fasting rule falls apart, prayer is dry or non-existent, the whole enterprise is best abandoned before you embarrass yourself further. The second is the perception that you are succeeding and are only steps away from taking your place alongside the holy and enlightened. At the very least you have pulled away from the common crowd who do not have your discipline and insight. Despair or arrogance, the feeling of failure or the feeling of success; falling into either is a sign that the message of Lent has been missed. What does God require of us? That we come before him honestly in our weakness. There is no room for arrogance, because our poverty means more to God than our strength. There is no room for despair either, because it is in our poverty and weakness that Christ comes to us. Just as our strength will not bring him, neither will our failure drive him away. Our imperfect reality is gift enough for God, if it is given without pretense.