Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Great Lent Week 2, Love
Volume 8 No. 463 February 16, 2018
 
II. Meditations For Great Lent

Know Thyself

by Chad Glazener
Admissions and Recruitment Coordinator
Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University

Self-examination may not always be pleasant but it is always necessary. The psalmist went so far as to write,

"Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart" (Ps. 26:2).

The psalmist knew that it was what was in his heart that mattered but even he himself could not know what was in his heart without a proper self-examination. The ancient adage to "know yourself" still stands today. With sin making it so difficult to know the true self from the false self we have no other choice as faithful followers of Jesus than to regularly and systematically ensure that we are not engaged in self-deceit. To know this demands that we take the proverbial long, hard look in the mirror.

Of course, we do this not just to see our sin and, thereby, feel defeated; but we do it so as to see the work that God is doing in us. We examine ourselves to see the condition of our heart and in this we come to see our true selves as God sees us.

In the words of Thomas Merton (d. 1968),

"But the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God's love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his own illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God."
(No Man Is an Island)

Omnipresence and Omniscience of God
Scripture: Psalm 139

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.

Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am
fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.

When I awake, I am still with You.
O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.

Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

Poem: I Thank You God For Most This Amazing

By E.E. Cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any - lifted from the no
of all nothing - human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Reach Out
One of the fundamental laws of the faith is, simply: God is present. Whether we soar to the heavens or wrap the earth around us, God is there. Whether we want it or know it, we have already been searched and seen. Long before we started crafting our speeches of self-defense, God knew all things. It is a comforting, and to some, frightening, reality that there is no step to take, there is no thought to think, there is no word to utter that is not known to God.

The psalmist calls this knowledge "too wonderful," which strikes at the majesty and the terror. And part of the wonder of it all is the sort of existence it creates for us. We are fully known by a God who loves us, a God whom we do not see, and whom we only partially know. Stranger still: God's sight of us is total while we only half-know ourselves. The prophet Jeremiah describes this condition of the heart as "deceitful" because our heart which is made to know and return the love of God cannot grasp it. There is difficulty here: we may not, in fact, know which way our heart will turn. We might desire surrender, but offer resistance. Lord I believe; help my unbelief.

We begin our long, slow shuffle to the cross from this premise of God's piercing presence. Today we are invited to befriend our frailty and the limitations of our knowing. But we can only respond to this invitation in one of two ways: towards surrender or towards resistance. Setting our gaze toward the cross, we are offered suffering with Christ to receive his resurrection. But the choice is ultimately ours: we must decide to embrace Christ's wounds or reject them.

Self Portrait by Roy Nachum
Self Portrait by Roy Nachum

Roy Nachum's artwork Self-Portrait is a study in gesture. His painting captures the shape of our hands, which reveal the state of our heart. These are hands caught between repulsion and surrender. The gesture here is ambiguous: it either shields the viewer from what's hidden behind, or reaches out towards an unknown object. Either way, we do not see the whole painting. Nachum enhances this ambiguity with his use of Braille typography, placing the viewer in a state of tension. We wonder: am I meant to draw near and touch? Or is the piece inviolable?

For those of us caught in between, recording artist Toulouse offers us a prayer. He pulls us up outside ourselves, echoing the language of Psalm 139. The pain of loving our prodigal hearts is not wearisome to God. Without fail, God continues to beckon to us, asking us to receive and return his embrace.

This Lent, we must work towards surrender, allowing God's sight to "see us back to whole." We must reach out beyond what we can see, willing to exchange our illusions for reality. Through our hands, we can become alive and awake to all that is infinite, which is yes; all that which God will give to those who awake to his presence and faithfully follow to the end.

Prayer
God, you are always giving, always reaching.
You travail with us through our labor,
Gripping our hand to guide us along the way.
Give us the grace to return your grip,
To open our hands in surrender and receive you as you are.
Awaken us to your presence,
So that we may praise you with all of creation
For this most amazing day.
Amen.

Source: The 2018 Lent Project, Biola University
2018 Biola University, Inc., All rights reserved.

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