In both ancient and modern times Lent was designed to be a time for the instruction of catechumenates for their baptism at the Easter Vigil. During this same time the whole church anticipates Easter through acts of repentance and spiritual renewal. This is often done by giving something up (fasting) in order to practice, more faithfully, self-control and the giving of alms. Prayer is also a major part of this season as well.

As regular readers of this blog know I use The Divine Hours, Phyllis Tickle (Doubleday, 2001). In this daily guide The Night Office, to be observed before retiring in the evening, is often the portion of the day that moves me the most profoundly. I have sometimes wondered why this is so but I think the reason is quite apparent—you are preparing yourself for both physical rest and eternal rest (death) each and every night. Someday, you will lay down to rest for the last time and then enter the eternal rest of God if you love the Savior.

During Lent there has been a prayer that has deeply moved me several times. It is called, simply, The Litany of Penitence. I will reproduce the first half of the prayer and note some parts that have particularly moved me over these recent days.

Most holy and merciful Father;
I confess to you and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that I have sinned by my own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.

I have not loved you with my whole heart, mind, and strength. I have not
loved my neighbor as myself. I have not forgiven others, as I
have been
forgiven.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. I have not been true to
the mind of Christ. I have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I confess to you, Lord, all of my past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of my life.
I confess to you, Lord.

My self-indulgent appetites and ways, and my exploitation of other people,
I confess to you, Lord.

My anger at my own frustration, and my envy of those more fortunate than I,
I confess to you, Lord.

Wholehearted confession is to be offered to the whole church (“the whole communion of saints”), “in heaven and on earth.” And sin is confessed as altogether “my fault.” Combining these two prayers is something new to me but has been powerfully life transforming. The truth behind this is plainly biblical.

“I have been deaf to your call to serve.” Not entirely, for sure, but this reaches down into my soul and touches every thought and action of my day consciously and powerfully.

To confess “the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of my life” is not new but linking impatience with my pride and with hypocrisy is not something that I have been prone to do for much of my life. We all want to be more patient but I do not think we see how this problem links with our pride (the need to be in control) and hypocrisy (we profess faith in God’s kind providence but then act otherwise when we are impatient).

“Self-indulgent appetites and ways” I can admit but again I had never quite linked these to “exploitation of other people” quite so strongly until I prayed this litany.

It is the last portion that really nailed me during the Ash Wednesday service. I was so struck by it that I got a highlighter out of my pocket and marked it on the spot. I get very angry “at my own frustration.” In dealing with chronic illness I often get quite angry, though few know it. And in not getting enough done in a day I often get angry at my own frustration as well, sometimes showing it to those I love the most. These severe mercies of my heavenly Father are all designed to address my envy and my lack of trust. They also serve as a sign of my mortality and humanness. I am working on these matters and find Lent a season to address them with fresh determination to seek God with my whole heart.

What moves your heart during Lent and how is God dealing with you in repentance?