Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lent--Transformation in Christ

Is Lent just a time of obligatory sacrifice grumblingly undertaken? The chatter about what to give up for Lent can be humorous, but all too often masks what this season of grace is all about. It isn't about self-actualization in the worldly sense. It is about conversion, transformation in Christ. The grappling with temptation allows us to touch on eternal things, to focus our eyes on those above and not the transitory life here on earth and its delicacies. Our truest freedom comes from surrender to Christ. In him, we find our happiness. Our interior restlessness finds its peace in union with Him. Not because of peace for its own sake, or transformation for its own sake, but for the love of Christ. Here is an excerpt from a book by Dietrich von Hildebrand Transformation in Christ. He is contrasting youthful tendencies toward change for the novelty and seeming vitality and the rigidity of maturity, or what appears to be rigidity. (paragraph breaks added for ease in reading)

But if we envisage the vital phases of youth and old age from a supernatural point of view, the picture will be different. Here, in fact, an inverse law will appear. The readiness to change, the wax-like receptiveness towards Christ will tend not to vanish but to increase as man grows into a state of maturity. Accidental concerns and complications recede into the background; the pattern of life wins through to simplicity; the great decisive aspects of life become more clearly accentuated.

The unrest incident to youth, the vacillating response to disparate appeals, the insatiable hunger for whatever appears attractive or beautiful will subside, and a steady orientation towards the essential and decisive become dominant.

This progress towards simplicity, which is part of the spiritual significance of advancing in age, is linked to a "consolidation" in Christ. A number of vital tendencies, longings of all kinds, and a certain ubiquitous unrest fostered by the expectation of earthly happiness, recede before that supernatural unrest which attends the supreme yearning for Christ. A liberation from one's own nature becomes apparent. The scriptural words, "Being made perfect in a short space, he fulfilled a long time" (Wisd 4:13-14), refer to this true meaning and value of maturity.

Yet this attainment of full maturity also implies "eternal youth" in a supernatural sense. It implies that the readiness to change, the determination to become a "new man," and unconditional willingness to crucify the old self should increase; that the impatience for Christ should not abate. As he draws nearer to the gates of eternity, such a person will direct his attention to "the one thing necessary," with ever increasing concentration. It is this supernatural youth which is referred to in the gradual of the Mass, by the words, "qui laetificat juventutem meam" (Who giveth joy to my youth).

Here is, paradoxically speaking, a spiritual intactness increasing with age, inasmuch as throughout the status viae we continually enhance our alert readiness to change towards greater proximity to God, so that His features may be engraved upon our souls. And this is equivalent to becoming more and more free from ourselves: ridding ourselves of everything which, though it be rooted in our own nature, stands between our souls and Christ. It may be said without exaggeration that the degree of our inner "fluidity" in relation to Christ, our readiness to "put off our own nature in order to put on Christ," constitutes the standard criterion of our religious progress.

May you in this Lenten season begin to resemble more and more the features of Christ. And at Easter, that you may rise as new creatures.


Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Thanks for this..will use at some point

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful meditation on transforming our lives away from sin!Dr Von Hildebrand is my favored writer of the 20th c.
In the course of the centuries, our fasting discipline has undergone numerous and radical changes.
Today, unfortunately, the observance of Lent is but mere formalism, reduced to abstinence on certain days and without any stress on one's spiritual growth or the amending of one's life style.

Anonymous said...

As a fairly new Catholic, I don't know how Lenten observances today compare with those of bygone years, but I hope the emphasis will always be on ways we can become increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. Be blessed this Lent. May you be drawn closer to our Lord.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

I need to read more of Dr. von Hildenbrand-both he and his wife!

Prayers for you and your family this Lent!