Lent as Divine Therapy

Fr. Thomas Keating talks about Lent as a time to look at unconscious dynamics that keep us from a deep relationship with God.

Thomas KeatingFather Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk at St. Benedict's monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, is a co-founder of the centering prayer movement. He recently spoke to Beliefnet producer Anne A. Simpkinson about the contemplative dimensions of the Lenten season.

How can we make Lent a more contemplative time? And, if people are already practicing contemplative prayer, how can they deepen their practice?

Lent is meant to be a communal retreat for all Christians--at least those who observe Lent. The liturgy is an instruction in the mystical meaning of Lent as preparation for the Holy Week celebration of the mystery of redemption.

Redemption basically is about holistic health, if you want to translate it into modern parlance. What I suggest--based on the Christian tradition but not often preached--is that you can't enter into the fullness of the Pascal mystery of the redemption unless there is a radical transformation of motivation within you. So, on the first Sunday of Lent, you have Christ going into the desert and experiencing basic human instincts--security needs, power-control needs, and affection-esteem needs. The three temptations that [Christ faced in the desert] address each one of those issues.


If you accept the belief that baptism incorporates us in the mystical body of Christ, into the divine DNA, then you might say that the Holy Spirit is present in each of us, and thus we have the capacity for the fullness of redemption, of transformation.

Lent is a time to renew wherever we are in that process that I call the divine therapy. It's a time to look what our instinctual needs are, look at what the dynamics of our unconscious are. The church is hinting in the first Sunday of Lent that Lent is about temptation, or what we think is temptation. It's about the raw experience of human instincts, and how they unconsciously influence our conduct and decisions all our life long unless we keep working with them.

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