Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mid-Lent.


Finding ourselves halfway through Lent, we might do well to ask ourselves how we're doing. For many, the experience of Lent is defined partly by the promises that we make at the start of the season - the activities and foods that we promise to give up, or the practices that we promise to add or intensify. The halfway point of Lent is a good time to examine our lives and consciences to consider how faithfully we have followed through on the promises that we may have made at the start of the season. If our actions have fallen short of our good intentions, this may be a good time to make a renewed commitment to the Lenten struggle. In a larger way, the midpoint of Lent is a good time to examine the state of our lives in general. Has our experience of Christian discipleship changed since the start of this Lent? Has it changed since the end of the last Lent? If so, how? If not, why not?

As I did last year at this point in Lent, I would like to share a passage that struck me in my own Lenten reading. Last year, with a nod to the Desert Fathers, I asked whether we edify others by our silence. In a similar vein, we might also ask whether we edify others by our speech. I recently came across some sage reflections on this point in Father Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, an old favorite that I decided to reread this year. Near the very end of the book, Father Alexander has this to say:
. . . Lent is the time to control our speech. Our world is incredibly verbal and we are constantly flooded by words which have lost their meaning and therefore their power. Christianity reveals the sacredness of the word - a truly divine gift to man. For this reason our speech is endowed with tremendous power either positive or negative. For this reason also we shall be judged on our words: "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof on the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matt. 12:36-37). . . .
What does it mean to reflect on our use of words during Lent? In part, it means that we should seek to account for the words that we speak and take responsibility for them. It also means that we should consider the effect that our words have on others:
. . . To control speech is to recover its seriousness and its sacredness, to understand that sometimes an innocent "joke," which we proffered without even thinking about it, can have disastrous results - can be that last "straw" which pushes a man into ultimate despair and destruction. But the word can also be a witness. A casual conversation across the desk with a colleague can do more for communicating a vision of life, an attitude toward other men or toward work, than formal preaching. It can sow the seeds of a question, of the possibility of a different approach to life, the desire to know more. We have no idea how, in fact, we constantly influence one another by our words, by the very "tonality" of our personality. And ultimately men are converted to God not because someone was able to give brilliant explanations, but because they saw in him that light, joy, depth, seriousness, and love which alone reveal the presence and the power of God in the world.
In the midst of Lent and in the midst of our lives, I hope that we may have the courage to ask ourselves what messages our words convey to others. Do our words uplift others, or bring them down? By our words, do we truthfully communicate the concerns and values that guide our lives? Are we sensitive to the impact that our words can have on others? How can we make better use of the gift of speech that we possess? In short, what do words mean for us? AMDG.

2 Comments:

At 3/25/2010 7:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blessings brother,

this has truly blessed me and made me reflect and think. Thanks you.

Lisa :)

 
At 3/25/2010 10:03 AM, Blogger Joe said...

Lisa,

Thanks for letting me know!

Joe K sj

 

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