Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving.
On these actions the season of Lent is built.
Once again, Ash Wednesday is upon us. We begin 40 days of spiritual introspection, repentance, and renewal. The Church creates a time for us to seriously and sincerely focus on our relationship with God and how we can grow closer to Him. What we do and how well it is done can only be measured by how willing we are to use the graces He gives us. While grace can come through any means, it is these three acts which are the main conduits for the next 6+ weeks.
These acts have a common thread. They require us to empty ourselves, to become open, to be able to receive and be filled. They ask of us to have nothing between God and our hearts. They demand an honest accounting of what is within us so that God can remove what barriers there are to Him.
And it starts with a conversation.
Is that not, at its most elementary level, what prayer is? But, how deep is that conversation? God is continually revealing Himself to us and our selves to us. How are our listening skills? Is it more "Thy will be done" than "my will be done"? When we ask Him to "teach us to pray," are we docile? Are we able more and more to hear the Word? Are we malleable clay in the Potter's hands? Are we becoming what we were made to be--children of God?
Once that conversation is in progress, this on-going dialogue between Creator and creature, a response can come.
Enter fasting. It is a realization that God is our all, the "pearl of great price". In order to have Him, we must begin to make room. Closed fists can never hold anything but the fingers curled against the palms. While the finite can never hold the infinite, there cannot be "no room at the inn". We begin to carve a hollow for the He Who is hallowed. We make space to be filled. We create a place for this Guest at our table so the fasting now is worthy of the feasting later.
Now we have true abundance; again we must respond.
Enter almsgiving. It is true we can't give what we don't have. Now, we have it. Because He has shared, we must as well. And we must give as abundantly as He did; we must follow the example of the widow's mite. Love is not love unless it is given away.
And then we continue the conversation with Him.
And then the process starts anew.
Beyond Lent. Into Easter. Into the rest of our lives.