The Grace of Lent

The Grace of Lent

Lent, which is the 40 day period of spiritual preparation for the solemnity of Easter, is an excellent time of grace. As Pope Francis told us in his Message for this year’s Lent of 2023, while our ordinary commitments compel us to remain in our usual places and our often repetitive and sometimes boring routines, during Lent we are invited to ascend “a high mountain” in the company of Jesus and to live a particular experience of spiritual discipline – ascesis – as God’s holy people.

A fantastic aid to live this spiritual discipline Pope Francis is talking about is certainly a book written by the great Cardinal Robert Sarah entitled The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. In this fascinating book Cardinal Sarah, the former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments, presents to us some excellent reflections on what silence is all about. Silence is direly needed as we ascend together with Jesus on the high mountain to meet the Father.

During this Lent you and I need to make a choice, either to let God in or to let him out of our lives. Lent is a time of this crucial choice indeed. Cardinal Sarah says in page 67: Man must make a choice: God or nothing, silence or noise. During this Lent we must learn to pray, that is we are to be bold enough to listen to God speaking tenderly to our hearts. He writes on page 52: Prayer consists of listening to God speak silently within us. Moreover, Lent is a springboard to intimacy with God. In page 122 we read: Sacred silence, laden with the adored presence, opens the way to mystical silence, full of loving intimacy.

Lent helps us discover that our hearts are God’s temple of silence. Cardinal Robert Sarah affirms this reflection in page 23: There is no place on earth where God is more present than in the human heart. This heart truly is God’s abode, the temple of silence… The Father waits for his children in their own hearts. Lent is also a return to the first fruits of silence that are relationships, amazement and adoration of God. Page 56 tells us: Noise is a deceptive, addictive, and false tranquilizer. The tragedy of our world is never better summed up than in the fury of senseless noise that stubbornly hates silence. This age detests the things that silence brings us to: encounter, wonder, and kneeling before God. Lent gives us the tools of real interiority with God. Cardinal Sarah comments: Nestling in silence against the heart of God, with the open Bible over our head like the wings of the Holy Spirit, is still the best antidote, the one thing necessary to chase away from our interior territory all that is useless, superfluous, worldly, and even our own self.

Lent is an extraordinary opportunity of grace to experience silence. Page 80 informs us: Without silence, God disappears in the noise. And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost. The earth then rushes into nothingness. Lent is a graced time wherein we grow in the Lord’s silences like Mother Teresa. In page 98 Cardinal Sarah makes the following observation: Mother Teresa had a face charred by God’s silences, but she bore within her and breathed love. By dint of remaining long hours before the burning flame of the Blessed Sacrament, her face was tanned, transformed by a daily face-to-face encounter with the Lord.

Lent is a wake up call to connect our ‘interior cell phone’ with God. Page 144 sheds light on this point when it says: If our “interior cell phone” is always busy because we are “having a conversation” with other creatures, how can the Creator reach us, how can he “call us. Finally, Lent keeps continually reminding us that silence is God’s iconostasis in us. Cardinal Sarah tells us in page 124 and 136: Silence is an acoustic veil that protects the mystery… a sort of sonic iconostasis.

By just reading this book I got the feeling that Lent is a wonderful experience of living what the prophet Hosea writes in his second chapter of his book about Israel, the Lord’s unfaithful bride: Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her (Hos 2:14). Let us keep this book with us as we journey the Lenten season with Jesus in our ascending of the high mountain so as to meet Our Heavenly Father who will eventually transform us through the Holy Spirit in His beloved Son, our Elder Brother and Saviour, Christ Our Lord.

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Written by
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap