The prayer this week starts right out with us asking God to grant our petitions. Grant is defined as agree to give. That means we have to be ready and open to receive. This week we Lectio the Liturgy with the Collect for the First Sunday of Lent.
Grant, almighty God, through the yearly observances of holy Lent, that we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their effects. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
In the prayer, we ask God to grant two things. Our first request is that we grow in understanding of the hidden riches. Hidden riches are our reminder that there is more than meets the eye. The Christian life is not based on what we can see. For example, our Sacraments are visible signs of invisible grace. When we celebrate the Eucharist, the visible bread and wine are the sign of the unseen Body and Blood of Jesus. The water of Baptism is the sign of new birth. The visible signs all point to the invisible, the hidden riches of God.
To grow in understanding of the hidden riches, we must come to understand and appreciate the work that God has done in us that has brought us to a deeper reverence of Him. As I thought about what that looked like in my own life, I realized that it was easy to appreciate God’s work when things were going well, but the times of more profound understanding and growth came things weren’t easy and I had to put my complete trust in Him.
Our second request is that by worthy conduct, we pursue the effects of the hidden riches. In the Latin form of the prayer, for “worthy conduct,” we find the word converso, which means to turn around.
In the early Church, when someone was baptized and joined the church, they would face the west, renounce Satan, then turn east. This gesture indicated that they turned their backs on their former life, they turned around, and became a part of the Kingdom of God.
Today, when someone is baptized, or when they join the church, they no longer physically turn from west to east, but that is what happens spiritually; they experience a spiritual turning around.
The opening of our prayer is where we’ll find the instructions for growing and pursuing. It is in the yearly observances of holy Lent. In the Latin form of the prayer, for the word observances, we find the word exercitia, which means training or exercise, so think exertion. Lent is a time when we are in training.
Our exercises of Lent, prayer, alms giving, and fasting, should strengthen us just like prayer and fasting strengthened Jesus in the desert. Lent should be a time of reflection, repentance, and active growth as we learn and come to love God’s hidden riches.
In the next couple weeks, I encourage you to spend some time to consider where you would like your spiritual life to be. With prayer, alms giving, and fasting, how close can you get to that goal this Lent? Perhaps what is even more important is this: Whatever spiritual progress you make during Lent, when Easter Sunday comes, do not go back to what you were. It is true that the spiritual life is sometimes like the game of Chutes and Ladders, but when we’ve climbed another ladder, let’s ask God for the grace to keep us from falling down the next chute.
Thanks for praying with me,