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Musings on grief, repentance, and conversion #41802
02/28/05 10:39 AM
02/28/05 10:39 AM
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Penthaetria Offline OP
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I shared this yesterday with a Forum friend, and he urged me to post it. I'm not sure which topic it belongs under, but this seemed as good a place as any. -- Penthaetria
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We are at the midpoint of Great Lent, the time set aside for self-examination before God and repentance in preparation for the great feast of Pascha. This year I have been broken open and laid out utterly naked before God. Yet I have not found my way to "repentance." I cannot get through my grief to find that mindset in my heart or head.

How do I connect repentance with grief? What is repentance but turning away from that which separates us from God? It is turning away from a place of brokenness and death and allowing God to restore us to life. Repentance is actually a lifelong conversion (which literally means “turning around”) process. It’s not something we do once and are done with forever. We must always be examining ourselves to reject the darkness within and embrace the eternal light.

And the work of grief is similar: I have been dragged down into the maws of death, brought face to face with the darkest enemy of the human heart. I must turn away from death — even though it is has seized my beloved — and turn toward life. I must turn away from the life I loved so profoundly and turn toward a new life. I must be willing to change from the woman I was to the woman God wants me to be now. And this is work, powerfully hard work, brutally painful work.

And I think that like the work of conversion, the work of grief may never be done. It may become easier, may become more integrated into my person, but it may, like repentance, be the work of a lifetime. The Greek word for repentance is metanoia, a word that implies a total transformation of one’s thinking and understanding. And surely this is what grief demands of me.

Re: Musings on grief, repentance, and conversion #41803
02/28/05 11:43 AM
02/28/05 11:43 AM
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Myles Offline
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Quote
And I think that like the work of conversion, the work of grief may never be done. It may become easier, may become more integrated into my person, but it may, like repentance, be the work of a lifetime. The Greek word for repentance is metanoia, a word that implies a total transformation of one’s thinking and understanding. And surely this is what grief demands of me.
I think in the last two sentences you of what you said you provided yourself with the answer. The focus of lent, ultimately, is to look upon Jesus in risen glory as the time of celebration before the Ascencion and Pentecost begins. However, prior to that we will find ourselves beside Our Lady and the beloved disciple staring into the face of Jesus Christ seeing ourselves in his penetrating dark eyes. In his twisted face, broken body, torn flesh, lacerated skin. So badly beaten that the Prophet Isaias says he wasnt even recogniseable as a human being...

This as much as the glory forms the backbone of Christianity for it is the suffering that gives birth to the glory. Remember, the woman in the agony of childbirth? When the child is born does she remember her pain? Your own pain sounds deep and great, I wont even dare to presume to tell you that I understand your feelings. However, the Lord does. In his abandonment by those he loved, in his feeling (and I stress this not reality but emotional feeling) of complete seperation from God that gave birth to the cry of dereliction, Jesus understands. He has said when He is risen He will draw all things to Himself and Paul tells us that not only nothing can seperate us from the love of God, but that we must do all things for the glory of God. Providence has lent you this pain so that you can go to God in mental prayer and speak to him out of your sorrow meeting him on a personal level that to the rest of us, is untouchable.

When we're sad one of the greatest lifts we can recieve is to know there's someone out there who understands and can share our grief. Jesus is asking you this lent dear sister to share with Him, your grief and indeed, to let him share His grief with you. At the foot of the cross before John arrived with His Holy Mother none of the disciples were there. But the women were...the women were there. Be there with him through your own misery, through your own cross, and unite all the suffering that wracks your soul with the pain of His passion.

Let your fingers trail across the pages of Sacred Scripture and as you touch the words let those words touch your heart. When you see him agonising in the garden let it flow into you and awaken your own suffering. Let your suffering unite you to His. When the disciples flee from the garden draw up your own feelings of abandonment of betrayal and look deep into his lonely eyes as the Romans drag him away. As he is whipped and mocked and presented to the crowd allow your experiences of the loss of dignity and face before others to draw you into the sorrow of His Sacred Heart. As you visualise him dragging his cross to Golgotha falling countless times with only a stranger to offer you support, let all those times you struggled to get up again when the despair seemed to much link you to the love of God that caused Christ to persevere. Then at the cross...say nothing...let your heart, a heart of sorrow and misery, do the talking until at last 'it is finished' and the veil of the temple tears. Letting the Holy of Holies, the face of God, be seen there and then in your life, in your experience, more personally than ever before and bring all of that to the mystery of the Mass again and again and again.

God bless you


"We love, because he first loved us"--1 John 4:19
Re: Musings on grief, repentance, and conversion #41804
02/28/05 12:02 PM
02/28/05 12:02 PM
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Father Gregory Offline
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It's AWESOME writing! Completely 'on target' and exactly what it's all about! I'm saving this one and using it for reflection during Great and Holy Lent! This comes from a heart and soul that has lived it and IS living it...but by God's grace (I think) is growing and coming out in 'one piece' and holier than ever.

May the Lord continue His work in you!

Your poor brother in the Lord,
+Fr. Gregory


+Father Archimandrite Gregory, who asks for your holy prayers!
Re: Musings on grief, repentance, and conversion #41805
02/28/05 05:23 PM
02/28/05 05:23 PM
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Hollidaysburg, PA
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Pentha Tria:

From my reading of the Desert Fathers, I have come to see the three points you mention as all part of the same whole. It seems to me that we are called to constant conversion of life (metanoia), which the Fathers link to grieving over one's past life. Repentance is not only sorrow for something past. It is also a realization that we fall short, whether morally or otherwise--that we are limited--and are in need of a Savior. Repentance understood in this way is a positive thing in that we realize our need for God and refocus our efforts on seeking Him and His help in all things. As St. Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in You." So our constant conversion of life includes a grieving and a refocusing.

Your situation has brought you to a different approach to the same mystery: the mystery of metanoia, the mystery of repentance, the mystery of grieving. Our stripping, our losses, our grieving here is all part of the growth in holiness we are called to. Each event is part of the constant conversion of life God calls us to always, not only during Lent. So your whole approach--now and in the future--will be focused in this slightly different direction. The lessons you learn will be unique gifts to those around you, much like the lessons learned in the desert and in monasteries are a gift to the whole Church.

Grieving is a "letting go," whatever that may be. When we grieve deeply, we let go of something (or someone)--a dream, a loved one, our own life plan(s)--and, having then a void, have a place and a space for God to come in and fill--if we but let Him. It is our woundedness and brokenness that God finds so attractive about us. If we were strong and self-sufficient, we would have no need of Him and would not seek Him. The irony in this, though, would be that we would have to be immortal to sustain such self-sufficiency. We are meant to grow and to leave behind things, events, and sometimes those we love because we are on pilgrimmage; we're not set in some static state--in a "feel-good" niche forever. So grieving becomes part of the normality of our human condition. And from the grief, we have a need to repent--or refocus. The whole, taken together, is where we come up with metanoia or "constant conversion of life." God comes to work in this flux and work on our perfecting so that we can be ready to take a place at the Wedding Feast in the Kingdom.

And as our brother, Myles, points out, as you join this suffering, this grieving, this metanoia of yours to the Passion of Christ, it will have eternal value both for you and for those who are edified by your example, who join you by prayer, and who look to you for example.

Be assured of something else, too. When one member of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. Continue to reach out to others and allow them (us) to carry your cross. Remember, too, the words of "Footprints" where the Lord assures us that at the lowest points in our lives, He carries us as well as the cross He has given us.

In Christ,

BOB

Re: Musings on grief, repentance, and conversion #41806
02/28/05 05:57 PM
02/28/05 05:57 PM
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Bob, you and Fr. Gregory should publish a guide for Lenten devotions. What I am reading here tells me it would be far better than most of what is currently available.

Re: Musings on grief, repentance, and conversion #41807
02/28/05 06:08 PM
02/28/05 06:08 PM
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Theophan(Bob),

Nicely put. This gives me more food for Lenten meditation. Thank you.

May yours be a fruitful Lent.<><

Re: Musings on grief, repentance, and conversion #41808
03/12/05 08:45 PM
03/12/05 08:45 PM
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PT:

I have copied things that have seemed to be especially worthy of further prayer and meditation at a later date. One such piece is by a priest who shared the following piece with us awhile back.
_______________________________________
from Hieromonk Elias

Perhaps I shouldn't say anything more, ... but forgive me if I will speak out of turn. I remember being in a spot once, where my ministry was unwanted and dispensed with for reasons I have never been able to understand. I felt quite devastated because my priestly ministry was not needed anywhere. Don't get me wrong, it was very painful indeed, one of the most painful things ever to live through, and at the time, too hard to take or accept.

Today I see the hand of God, in what at the time I only ascribed to human folly and spite. But now it means something altogether different to me. Now, I see that it was important for me to come to know that my own relationship with God, and
my own prayer, and my own faith, did not at all depend upon what I was doing, whether my ministry was wanted or respected, or whether I was 'useful' to anyone at all. I had defined my relationship to God in terms of my service as a priest, and when I did, that was taken away rudely! But God wanted to love me, and for me to love him, for who I was simply, and not in terms of service and 'role'. I suppose anything, even my vocation, might be an 'idol' if I let it be. In my life, God has always cast down every idol I have ever fashioned. I had made my vocation one, without even knowing it. Funny thing about idols, ...the disguises they wear. They can be like that famous demon, that dresses like an angel of light.
_____________________________________

It came to me today as I was reading and studying this little self-revelation that the wisdom Father Elias speaks of here is just as relevant to us. It seems to me that we who are married can sometimes become diverted from our focus on Christ as being first in our lives by the "idol" of the perfect marriage, the perfect family life, the perfect career, the perfect number of children and their perfect accomplishments, the comfy niche. We can become comfortable. And it has been shown to me, time and again in my own pilgrimmage, that when we become comfortable our relationship with the Lord can become routine, even formal. But He calls us to the cross and tells us that if we do not take it up we cannot be His followers. As He points out in the Gospel, the Father prunes us so that we can bear more fruit. Similar to the stripping our Lord endured at the Crucifixion, this pruning is painful. There is always something lost, but the loss allows for greater spiritual gain because the loss allows the Lord to come in to fill the void. Our relationship grows when it is surrounded by suffering, because growth itself is a process of shedding an old form and acquiring or assuming another.

None of this growth process, this metanoia, this refocusing/grieving/repentance is easy. But if it were, the Lord's Passion would have been a cake walk and ours would be nothing at all. Look at what Fr. Elias says, however:

"But God wanted to love me, and for me to love him, for who I was simply, and not in terms of service and 'role'."

If I were to try to answer the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?," I could have no better answer than Fr. Elias gives us here.

You might even paraphrase what he says

"I had defined my relationship to God in terms of my service as a WIFE, MOTHER, CAREER WOMAN, ETC. , and when I did, that was taken away rudely!"

Lest you think that this is academic, I have been examining my own life this Lent and have been deeply moved by this passage. Twice in my life I have had to change career paths and was devastated--shaken to the core of my being, wondering who I was, what my life's purpose was, and even if I had a purpose at all.

May the Lord lift you up as you struggle with this conversion of life at this time.

In Christ,

BOB

Re: Musings on grief, repentance, and conversion #41809
03/13/05 10:12 AM
03/13/05 10:12 AM
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Bob,

Your P.M. to me last week has proved helpful. I have followed your suggestion in using the above as Lenten meditation. It is good to focus on these meaningful things often, but especially now as we approach the end of Lent. Asking forgiveness of others is key and, of course, obedience.

I am blessed because since I decided to follow through with this there have been some changes and two episodes I would not have pictured in the plan. Of course, as usual they were in God's providential plan...not mine. This has invoked tears...but it has been good. Relinquishment of past hurtful memories can be very healing and I have been doing that more than usual.

I have also seen the need for some other changes in my life, so I am praising God for using you as His instrument of peace.

May the Holy Spirit continue to bless you and yours. Thank you.

In Christ and the Theotokos,

Mary Jo <><

Re: Musings on grief, repentance, and conversion #41810
03/13/05 12:27 PM
03/13/05 12:27 PM
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Connecticut
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Mary Jo, I want to share with you a prayer that our French-Canadian people use constantly to help bring about healing and assistance. We pray always to Our Lady, Notre Dame du Cap http://www.catholictradition.org/ducap.htm and ask her for this...and prayer is on this page with the above link.

May she help you always!

In her service,
+Fr. Gregory


+Father Archimandrite Gregory, who asks for your holy prayers!

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