Musings for the Moment Lent 2022
As we begin this Lenten season our hearts are heavy with the escalating violence that President Putin is inflicting on the people of Ukraine. These days watching the suffering of the women, children, young men and old, I feel so powerless. I feel we are and the whole world is facing an impasse. Drawing on the insight of Constance FitzGerald, OCD, “the impasse provides a challenge and a concrete focus for contemplation…This means the situation of being helpless can be efficacious, not merely self-denying and demanding of passivity…if one can yield in the right way, responding with full consciousness of one’s suffering in the impasse yet daring to believe that new possibilities, beyond immediate vision, can be given.”
I invite everyone to take 15 minutes each Wednesday during Lent at 12:00 Eastern Time to sit in contemplation with the specific intent for peace for the world and particularly for the Ukrainian people. If you are able I’d invite you to join others who are part of ICCD to sit together via ZOOM. Here is the LINK for the ZOOM meeting. This same link will be used every Wednesday and a reminder will be sent out each Wednesday morning. If you cannot join us by ZOOM I would hope you will join us by stopping wherever you are and taking 15 min. to focus your energy and enter into the spaciousness of Divine Love believing in the possibilities beyond our immediate vision.
For your ongoing Lenten reflection here is a section from FitzGerald’s Impasse and the Dark Night. The full article can be accessed here. https://iccdinstitute.org/impasse-and-dark-night/; and my most recent Global Sisters’ Reflection-Time to Renew Your Contemplative Journey this Lent.
Excerpt from Impasse and the Dark Night by Constance FitzGerald, OCD.
Belden Lane, director of historical theology at Saint Louis University, indicates it in his article, Spirituality and Political Commitment: … in a genuine impasse one’s accustomed way of acting and living is brought to a standstill. The left side of the brain, with its usual application of linear, analytical, conventional thinking is ground to a halt. The impasse forces us to start all over again, driving us to contemplation. On the other hand, the impasse provides a challenge and a concrete focus for contemplation…. It forces the right side of the brain into gear, seeking intuitive, symbolic, unconventional answers, so that action can be renewed eventually with greater purpose…
The negative situation constitutes a reverse pressure on imagination so that imagination is the only way to move more deeply into the experience. It is this “imaginative shock,” or striking awareness that our categories do not fit our experience, that throws the intuitive, unconscious self into gear in quest of what the possibilities really are…
Genuine change occurs through a “second order” response, “one which rethinks the solution previously tried and suggests something altogether unexpected. The quality of paradox is at the heart of ‘second order change.’ “6 It implies that the unexpected, the alternative, the new vision, is not given on demand but is beyond conscious, rational control. It is the fruit of unconscious processes in which the situation of Impasse Itself becomes the focus of contemplative reflection.7
The psychologists and the theologians, the poets and the mystics, assure us that impasse can be the condition for creative growth and transformation if the experience of impasse is fully appropriated within one’s heart and flesh with consciousness and consent; if the limitations of one’s humanity and human condition are squarely faced and the sorrow of finitude allowed to invade the human spirit with real, existential powerlessness; if the ego does not demand understanding in the name of control and predictability but is willing to admit the mystery of its own being and surrender itself to this mystery; if the path into the unknown, into the uncontrolled and unpredictable margins of life, is freely taken when the path of deadly clarity fades.
Time to Renew your Contemplative Journey this Lent. Nancy Sylvester, IHM
For many years I have been writing for this column, “Contemplate This.” This title often makes me pause as I reflect that contemplation does not have an object on which it focuses — if what is meant by that is bringing to bear your rational and emotional faculties to observe, interpret or understand the object of attention.
“Contemplate” as a verb conveys a different type of knowing, one that is anchored in the heart (which is understood not as the seat of emotions but as an organ of perception.) Contemplation invites us to a new way of seeing, of knowing, that is rooted in the indwelling of Divine Love.
As we enter the Lenten season, I felt that a renewed contemplative practice might be just what is needed.
There are so many things attracting our attention throughout the world and in our lives: Russian troops poised on the border of Ukraine. Climate change affecting some areas with drought and others with horrendous storms. Inflation causing us to spend more money on essentials like food and gas. The toll of COVID-19 expressed in ongoing illness, death, isolation, uncertainty and divisiveness. Growing anger by those who oppose government actions to contain the spread of the infection, and claiming their right to freedom. State laws in the U.S. sanctioning civilian vigilantes to enforce restrictions on abortion and voting rights.
Certainly, each of these situations demands our attention and calls for action. However — too often — thinking about what is going on evokes anger, frustration, sadness and powerlessness within us. We are trapped in assumptions, worldviews and ways of thinking that keep us responding in old ways that only seem to exacerbate the situations.
Contemplation helps us to “see” in new ways, inviting us to respond out of love and not fear.
Liturgically, the Lenten season takes us on a journey. The story of Jesus’ public life is told once again. We witness a man who responded to the injustices of his time in ways that reflected a different worldview. He saw all as equal and not divided by the purity code of his time. He welcomed the unclean to join him. He healed those who couldn’t see physically but could “see” the power that Jesus offered them when he would ask, “And what do you want me to do for you?” He proclaimed his truth even though it would incite the ecclesial and political authorities. He loved and forgave those who could not accept his words, his invitations and who persecuted and crucified him.
Jesus responded to the injustices of his time out of love and not fear, and without blame.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus often prayed: intensely for 40 days, alone after giving of himself serving people’s needs and exercising his power, and communally at meals.
I believe his prayer went beyond words, beyond thinking. Jesus rested in Divine Love but not a resting of inaction. Rather, that resting freed him from current ways of thinking and opened a spaciousness within him so that he could “see” in new ways. Jesus’ heart became his organ of perception responding from the indwelling of Divine Love to be in service to all.
The magnetic center of Divine Love dwells within each of us — drawing us, inviting us to make the space for us to “see” in new ways and to respond from that love.
Perhaps the invitation of these next 40 days is to deepen or commit to a contemplative practice. If you don’t have a practice you may want to begin with centering prayer. This is a practice where a very short word serves as your way back from distraction to the spaciousness of contemplation. Having consented to the working of God within you, every time you begin to think or something distracts you, you simply say the word and then let go. Letting go is key, for each time you let go you fall more deeply into the space where the Divine Mystery dwells. In silence you encounter God revealing not only God’s self but your true self as well.
We are living in tumultuous times, in a time of chaos. We don’t yet know how to respond in ways that heal. Taking time this Lent to simply rest in the indwelling of Divine Love will move us closer to seeing in new ways, so that we can begin to respond from love and not fear and without blame.
Endnote: You will find resources that can assist your contemplative journey at www.iccdinstitute.org. If you are new to contemplation you may find these articles helpful. https://iccdinstitute.org/when-words-dont-work/; https://iccdinstitute.org/contemplation-a-call-to-all/; and https://iccdinstitute.org/would-you-stop-staring-contemplative-practice/.