With Lent just kicking off (hey, did we mention it’s Lent yet?), it’s always a good time to really dig deep into our spiritual life. Sometimes we don’t have much to begin with, and it’s hard to really think that this year is going to be the year when we truly transform ourselves. I can’t say I have all of the answers or that my Lent is always as transforming as I hope it will be. But, luckily for me (and you), I’m pulling some words for inspiration today from somebody else.
Every year for my birthday in August, I like to renew my St. Louis de Montfort consecration. However, this year I’m currently doing a children’s version with my 4 year-old daughter, which will end on March 25th. So we’re still in the first twelve days, the part of the preparation in which St. Luis de Montfort encourages us to flee the spirit of the world, to purge off from our mind anything that is not of Christ. He wants us to get to the root of our identity as baptized, called to perfection.
This is always my favorite part of the consecration because it is so brutally honest. Here’s what I want to share with everyone for today, because I think it helps us to step into Lent with the right kind of attitude. It’s a quote from Thomas à Kempis, and it’s found on Day 10 of the Montfort preparation:
Now, will I speak again, 0 Lord, and will not be silent, I will say in the hearing of my God and my King Who is on high: Oh, how great is the abundance of Thy sweetness, 0 Lord, which Thou hast hidden for those that fear Thee! But what art Thou, for those who love Thee? What, to those who serve Thee with their whole heart? Unspeakable indeed is the sweetness of Thy contemplation, which Thou bestowest on those who love Thee. In this most of all hast Thou showed me the sweetness of Thy love, that when I had no being, Thou didst make me; and when I was straying far from Thee, Thou brought me back again, that I might serve Thee: and Thou hast commanded me to serve Thee. 0 Fountain of everlasting love, what shall I say of Thee? How can I forget Thee, Who hast vouchsafed to remember me even after I was corrupted and lost? Beyond all hope Thou showest mercy to Thy servant; and beyond all desert, hast Thou manifested Thy grace and friendship. What return shall I make to Thee for this favor? For it is granted to all who forsake these things, to renounce the world, and to assume the monastic life. Is it much that I should serve Thee, Whom the whole creation is bound to serve? It ought not to seem much to me to serve Thee; but this does rather appear great and wonderful to me, that Thou vouchsafest to receive one so wretched and unworthy as Thy servant. It is a great honor, a great glory, to serve Thee, and to despise all things for Thee, for they who willingly subject themselves to Thy holy service, shall have great grace. They shall experience the most sweet consolation of the Holy Spirit, Who for the love of Thee, have cast aside all carnal delight.
So much to love about this quote, not the least of which is the old style translation. But in particular I love the joining together of the notion of our absolute unworthiness of the Father’s love, and yet at the same time, the boundless depths of Christ’s mercy to pursue us and forgive us, in spite of our very real and very frequent failures.
Another aspect that I love about this passage is the notion that serving Christ, following Him fully with our whole heart, often seems like a chore, and a difficult goal to achieve. Indeed, the normal experience of the spiritual life is a lot of toil trying to really take our faith seriously, and only sometimes succeeding. But Kempis notes here that serving Jesus, which is a glorious reality, is more like a requirement. It’s something we’re supposed to do, something God Himself makes us capable of doing, and which we can do, only because of the outpouring of grace in our lives. Creation is bound to serve God, but we human beings have the distinct privilege of freedom, and it is in light of our freedom, and of our choice to follow Jesus that we see the high adventure of the spiritual life.
So as Lent begins, don’t be overzealous in what you, on your own, might achieve. Throw yourself into the arms of Divine Mercy. Trust in Jesus. But know that He desires your perfection, and wants to make it possible. The time is perfect to begin the journey toward holiness.
God Love you!