Return to Christ’s arms this Lent
By Lindsey Weishar
Here we are again at the start of Lent. Admittedly, this season has never been my favorite. In past Lents I’ve noticed a certain anxiety inhabits my soul. It’s almost as if I must become hardened to fast, to pray, to change. The result is that Lent weighs on me until I say, “My goodness, I wasn’t strong enough for it this time.”
But my perspective of Lent has recently shifted. This shift came in the last few days of Advent 2019, which I spent at a young adult silent retreat with the Community of St. John. I remember driving the last leg of that journey through the star-freckled darkness of an early winter night. That it took my eyes time to see the layers upon layers of stars present in this part of Princeville offered a poignant parallel to my own spiritual need: that I must once again become accustomed to the voice of Him who loves me. Loves me.
Lent is about deepening our seeking for Christ, and upon finding him in the small moments of the everyday, never letting him go. It is about rediscovering our first love.
During the retreat, Brother Hugh Mary led us through a series of meditations on some of the early chapters in the book of Revelation, where Christ speaks to the seven churches. I was struck by a verse from Rev. 2:4, where Christ exhorts the church at Ephesus, saying, “you have abandoned your first love.”
Those words resounded through me, and became a theme that seeped into the silence of the two days I spent there.
ALLOW THE LORD AN OPENING
During meals, a brother read from “The World’s First Love.” As forks and spoons clicked against plates, as brothers coordinated the passing of food, we listened to Fulton Sheen’s words unfold over us: freedom is not the right to do whatever we want. True freedom — and true love — places restraints, so as to allow the beloved room to be free as well.
The act of freely coming away with the Lord allows him an opening — an invitation into both the broken and the beautiful places within. I came into this retreat restless, worn down by my own deserts, which currently manifest in uncertainty about the future. The silence that accompanied a rhythm of the Divine Office, Scripture meditation, Mass, and adoration reminded me that part of accepting Christ’s love is to be with him who longs to be with us.
I’ve lately been struck by the image in Song of Songs 2:9b where the lover is described as “gazing through the windows, / peering through the lattices.” He’s unshakably drawn to his beloved. That beloved is you. That beloved is me.
Lent, I’ve come to realize, is a lifting of the lattices, a seeking after him, a pursuit. In this season, I’m asked to follow him into the desert. Looking back on my most recent Lenten journeys, I had forgotten that the desert is less about suffering through unbearable heat and ever-shifting sand, and more about discovering the hidden beauties that are found in a greater intimacy with Christ. As the Little Prince remarks in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book by the same title, “What makes the desert beautiful . . . is that somewhere it hides a well.”
The well is relationship with Christ. The well is a coming together with him. For this discovery, I need not steel myself for the season; I am invited to become gentler and more receptive to the everyday signs of his love.
“THE RENOVATION OF OUR HEARTS”
Brother Hugh Mary said that the seasons of the Church allow for “the renovation of our hearts.” This retreat encouraged me to come away with him, to unfold a desire for the Beloved again. That this retreat ended up also being a mini Totus Tuus reunion of most of the 2012 team made this coming away all the sweeter. I am reminded that we are truly the body of Christ. We don’t walk the liturgical seasons alone. We are accompanied by the whole Church and by Christ himself.
This Lent, while remembering my weakness and working to carry my crosses, I hope to return to Christ’s arms more frequently, to draw closer to him. In Song of Songs 8:5, we hear, “Who is this coming up from the desert, leaning upon her lover.” The desert is not merely hardship; it contains sweetness. Like the starlit night, it requires an adjustment of my vision. Lent is about deepening our seeking for him, and upon finding him in the small moments of the everyday, never letting him go.
It is about rediscovering our first love.
Lindsey Weishar enjoys traveling, exploring the origins of words, and reading. A graduate of The High School of Saint Thomas More in Champaign, she holds an MFA in Creative Writing and currently works as an English language and adult literacy instructor in the Kansas City region.