Allowing the Transformative Power of Lent to Emerge
Spiritual Reflection – Archbishop Emeritus Sylvain Lavoie, OMI
There is a saying, “When a drop of water falls in the ocean, the ocean has changed.”
This Lent, may we be that drop of water bringing healing to our world.
Any even casual look at the situation of our world today would have to admit that things are in rather dire straits: natural disasters such as the massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria, mass shootings, the war in Ukraine, polarization in our society and the church, rising social problems, loss of respect for life, global pandemics, and corruption in public affairs, to name a few.
What should the response of a follower of Jesus be? May I suggest another saying? – to be the change we want to see in the world. And the season of Lent can help us realize that hopeful goal.
A Celtic Lenten (Corgas) tradition sees Lent not as a time to be miserable, but as a time for joy. The old Celts would say, “The springtime has dawned; the flower of metanoia/change begins to open.”
There are three stages to this Celtic tradition:
- Name it: Summoning up the courage to name a particular emotion, defect of character or pattern of behavior that is not productive. As spiritual writer Richard Rohr teaches, we may not be able to fix something, but it is important that we name it properly. Or, as another saying goes, “Name it, claim it, don’t blame it, tame it, and then we can aim it.” This is an invitation to greater self-awareness.
- Allow it to be: Don’t try to stop or repress that awareness, or throw it back into your shadow. Rather, make a commitment to consciously observe yourself and that emotion, characteristic or behavior for the next forty days. Without judgment, allow your inner witness to observe things as they really are.
- Open Yourself to the fruit of self-observation: In the old Celtic tradition, the belief was that your effort simply to acknowledge a habit is a powerful way to be less addicted to the behavior. Call on the Holy Spirit to support you during this time of renewal. Pray the Prayer of the Anawim, the poor people who know they need God’s help, as did Peter when he started to sink while walking on the water. And enter more consciously into the prayer of contemplation, resting in God’s love, which becomes divine therapy, transforming us at a deeper level than any counseling or therapy can go.
This tradition leads us naturally into a transformative encounter with Jesus. As the Messiah, Jesus had a two-fold role – to redeem and to sanctify, to forgive and to heal. As part of this process, especially during Lent, we can come to him for forgiveness of our sins (hamartia – falling short of the person God created us to be) and our sinfulness (that which makes us sin in the first place).
We will have done metanoia, putting on our highest mind, becoming the best version of ourselves that we can be, and that will have a ripple effect on our world. We will be that drop of water changing the ocean, and the change that we want to see in the world.
By Sylvain Lavoie, OMI +