Lent Reflection day 27
The title of the twenty-seventh chapter of Unseen Warfare is a great piece of advice in itself: A warrior of Christ should use all means to avoid worries and agitations of the heart, if he wishes really to overcome his enemies. This chapter addresses the agitations that come to us without our will being involved, like sadness and anger. The book specifically says about sorrow: I do not mean to say you must not admit sorrow, for this is not in our power. What I mean is - do not let sorrow take possession of your heart and agitate it; keep it outside the bounds of your heart and hasten to soften and restrain it, so that it may not prevent you from reasoning soundly and acting rightly. With God’s help this is in our power, if religious and moral feelings and dispositions are strong in us. Sorrow and anger will be a part of our experience, to be sure, there is no way to avoid them. But we don’t have to succumb to them, if we prepare in our hearts beforehand how we are to react. As Unseen Warfare says: The remedy is faith in the good Providence, which arranges the course of our life with all its accidental happenings, for the good of each of us, and a serene compliance with God’s will, expressed in our attitude, in accordance with which we call from the bottom of our heart: Let God’s will be done! As the Lord wills, so let it be, and be for our good.
It takes a strong faith to say this in the midst of trouble, because when troubles come upon us we often respond emotionally. A special speaker came to our parish once for a Lenten retreat, many years ago. I was the one who drove him from place to place. While we were alone in the car, he spoke with great anger about something that was going on in the Archdiocese, or another Archdiocese, or something from overseas, I can’t remember what it was now. I only remember how surprised I was at the emotion he expressed and his angry words. Things like that happen all the time in the Church, it has always been that way and will always be! I had decided long before meeting this monk that I wouldn’t have any thoughts about the situation at all, one way or the other. My concern is for my soul and my parish, and I can’t do anything about problems that are above my station anyway. Later that day while he was speaking to my parishioners, I was thinking about how he had let his emotions, and curiosity, and assumption of the wrongs aimed at someone else get the best of him. It made everything he said sound ingenuous.
Anger will come upon us, but it’s not an emotion. It’s a response to a perceived threat. The emotional part comes afterward, when we allow sin to take over. As Unseen Warfare says, don’t let these kinds of things take possession of your heart and agitate it;. keep it outside the bounds of your heart and hasten to soften and restrain it, so that it may not prevent you from reasoning soundly and acting rightly.
Instead, we stop and remember that all things are in God’s hands. Remembering God’s providence enables us to respond properly to sad things that happen to us and attacks upon us. I love the little prayer from this chapter: Let God’s will be done! As the Lord wills, so let it be, and be for our good.
Now we are on the twenty-seventh day of our holy Lenten journey, brothers and sisters, and tomorrow we have the splendid and undeserved opportunity to communion with our Creator in the Divine Liturgy. I hope to see you there!