Time now in Lent to find a face to whom you can confess what is hidden in the valley of your heart and behind your eyes, where your tears start, in those reservoirs that hold your memories of having been wrong at the right time or having been right but at the wrong time, time after time. A priest has smudged your forehead with blessed ashes, but not all sin burns away until you voice repentance for the part you played in wounding others. Find an ear willing neither to soothe nor dismiss, but to hear the old, nagging music of sad experience bottled up inside you.
And if you are alone, finding no one to listen, then in your solitude pray in the “shadow of the Most High and abide in the shade of your Almighty … the God in whom you trust.” This from Psalm 91 is sung every night at Compline by Cistercian communities everywhere. God’s mercy and over-shadowing are, they know, the only holy alchemy that turns every wound you inflicted into a useful blessing for the one you should have loved but did not or could not.
There is an ancient Cistercian prayer from the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary that strikes the right notes for Lent and every season in which you desire more than ever to cling to Jesus, who was also tempted but could only love His Father’s Will. Pray this song during Lent alone or with others, but always in the name of the Church:
“I have found him whom my soul loves: I grasp him and will not let him go. I embrace you, my Jesus, and experience the joy of my love. I encompass you, the treasure of my heart, from whom I have all that is mine. May my mind feel the power of your presence. May it taste how sweet you are, so that captivated by your love, I might not seek anything outside of you, and love nothing except because of you.
“You are my King: forgive my indigence and tribulation. You are my Judge: forgive my sins and have mercy on me. You are my Physician: heal my infirmities. You are the Bridegroom of my soul: wed me to you for all eternity. You are my Guide and my Defender: keep me at your side. You became a Victim for my sake: I will sacrifice to you an oblation of praise. You are my Redeemer: redeem my soul from the power of hell and save me. You are my God and my All. What is there to seek in the heavens? Apart from you, what do I desire on earth? You are the God of my heart and my soul’s fate, O God, for all eternity!” *
Praying these words alone and together in the name of the Church during Lent and remembering the whole world and all human beings at war within it, let us enable hope in one another, hiding our grim faces, trusting that our Father is Most Merciful and Compassionate, that our Lord overcame all human temptations to abandon the world He had created, and that the Holy Spirit is forever near us, in our mouths, so in our hearts.
* Westmalle, Ex Typographia OCSO, 1930: 226-227, under the heading Pia suspiria post Missam.