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Break Open Your Heart?

Dear Lenten Companions,

On Ash Wednesday I received this blessing written by Jan Richardson. I want to share it with you because it’s still early enough in Lent to be meaningful and I want you to feel the power of its blessing also.

A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

To receive this blessing, all you have to do is let your heart break. Let it crack open.

Let it fall apart so that you can see its secret chambers,

the hidden spaces where you have hesitated to go.

Your entire life is here, inscribed whole upon your heart’s walls:

  • every path taken or left behind, every face you turned toward or turned away,

  • every word spoken in love or in rage,

  • every line of your life you would prefer to leave in shadow,

  • every story that shimmers with treasures known and those you have yet to find.

It could take you days to wander these rooms. Forty at least.

And so let this be a season for wandering, for trusting the breaking,

for tracing the rupture that will return you to the One who waits,

who watches, who works within the rending to make your heart whole.

It was that opening line that grabbed me. “Let your heart break.” I bowed my head, closed my eyes and prayed, “Oh no, not again! Is that the call of Lent? I know I’ve grown lax with self-discipline and I’ve already decided to do something about that, but another broken heart?? Please, not that! I’m really trying to control my tendency to judge people who think, act or live differently than I do. And then there are the ongoing disappointments and sacrifices imposed by COVID for a whole year already. Isn’t that enough?”

I suspect everyone reading this letter has made some sincere resolution for Lent. For some of us Lent becomes an endurance test, “Can I make it 6 weeks without my favorite ____?”

Some, like me, need self-discipline, whether they’ve fallen into a lazy or unkind habit, or have slipped away from a regular time of daily prayer or Scripture reading, or gotten undisciplined in their eating or drinking habits. Lent (the word comes from the Old English “lente” meaning “spring”) is a good time to do some physical and spiritual housecleaning. Those are all good suggestions for this season.

But Jan Richardson is blessing us with something more: a heart cracked open so we “walk around inside” and discover more about ourselves – good and bad. All the great saints and classic spiritual writers insist that self-knowledge is the foundation upon which holiness grows. That’s because it leads us to a profound sense of our need for conversion as we discover the deep down hidden parts of ourselves that we would just as soon hide or ignore. Ah, yes, allowing our hearts to be cracked open demands humility and vulnerability, not values we usually joyfully embrace, but that’s exactly where God wants to meet us.

A contrite, humble heart, O God, you will not spurn.” Ps. 51:17.

Can we come humbly and vulnerably before God this Lent, with all our gifts and with all our limitations and brokenness, and with utter honesty lay our heart open to the transforming power of our merciful God? This act of trust makes God smile, the God who is the divine physician, the expert in healing and making whole. All it takes, as Jan Richardson says, “is to let your heart break.”

Many blessings on your continued Lenten journey!

Sr. Edna

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