With Pope Benedict’s announcement of his resignation still ringing in the ears- apparently even the cupola on St. Peter’s Basilica was struck with lightening just hours after!- today we embark on forty days of Lent.
The timing of Benedict’s announcement is striking: isn’t resignation- from those things that would keep us from dwelling humbly in the truth that we, too, are heading for the ash heap like every other human being on God’s green earth- what Ash Wednesday and Lent are all about, after all? Isn’t resignation- to God- what Jesus’ journey to the cross invites us to?
All the manifestations of our protests that we are more than mere mortals are little more than vain efforts to swim upstream against the fast-moving currents of the river that is God’s Love. In Lent, we let go and surrender to God. We remember whose we really are, apart from whom we are like chaff that the wind blows away. We resign from playing little gods and denying that we are human beings who grow old, suffer loss, and die.
This morning my husband and I read the Litany of Penitence from the The Book of Common Prayer, which consists of a series of confessions of all the ways in which we play god:
“We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our live…our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people…our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves…our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work…our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us…our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty…for all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us…for our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us…”
When I read this, I first think…of the scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, when King Arthur grovels before some booming voice in heaven, which complains, “It’s always sorry this and sorry that.”
But then I think…what inspiration it took to to write these words! I wonder how they first came to Thomas Cranmer. Was he on his knees in prayer taking an inventory of his own heart? Did he convene a small company of trusted fellow clergy who, over stiff whiskey and a few cigars drew up a list of all their sinful ways? I, for one, would need a whiskey and a cigar for such an enterprise.
But I digress…
Both the glory and the humiliation of being human consists in the awareness that our efforts to be more than human only end in futility.
Ash Wednesday and the next forty days are a reminder.
What do you need to let go of to surrender to Love? If you’re brave, leave your thoughts below and I’ll republish them!