25 February, 2009

Ash Wednesday, 2009

Sorrowful Joy

The season of Lent is misunderstood by so many folk, including Christians.
Andrew Kern, over at: http://antiphrontisterion.wordpress.com/ wrote a heart strong and well reasoned piece that speaks to the core of Lent, and to Ash Wednesday. He speaks to the depths of true joy based in Christ. It is a reflected in a life battered by grief, sorrow, loss, pain, anger, denial; all those worldly things common to mankind. Yet that Christian life is founded in joy....as he states, a "Sorrowful Joy."

From his blog:

" The Blessed (and theremore mourning) apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians an epistle whose soul is “Bright sorrow”– 'as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.' In it, he reflected on an earlier letter in which he had caused the Corinthians to grieve over sin in their company.

'For even if I made you grieve with my letter,' he said, 'I do not regret it… Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentence. For you were made sorry in a godly manner… For godly sorrow produces repentence leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.' "


He proceeds to define worldly and therefore, Godless mourning as self-pity. And THAT is what leads to death. Worldly mourning leads to find a temporary fix, a manufactured joy. This trumped-up, self-inflicted, caffiene buzz jazz of false joy is short lived, empty and requires more of the worldly, manufactured "drug" to maintain its high. God's joy is based in the continued growth in the knowledge that God is the font from which that joy flows. It is always there, always free, always available to the repentant, sorrowful human. It is heavenly fodder that nourishes and strenthens us more and more and more as worldly time progresses. When we find it, choose to allow God to save us, feed us and grow in him...our conscious being shifts.

C. S. Lewis speaks directly to this shift of consciousness in his theological treatise: Suprised by Joy.

Russell Kirk wrote a fine distillation of Lewis' writing in an old issue of National Review, 1961:

"Joy, as described by Mr. Lewis, is a sudden stab of intense consciousness, very different from mere pleasure. And there is something better than joy — as much better than joy as joy is better than pleasure: Christian faith. Joy comes to Lewis as often and as sharply since his conversion as before. 'But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer....'

...Real Joy, which is apprehended by the higher imagination, 'must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing.' Again and again, Mr. Lewis communicates to us, in this little book, that stab, that pang, that longing."

What we Christians experience in this "Sorrowful Joy", is the knowledge that we are broken, sinful beings...strangers in a strange land...with one foot in this world and one foot in the grave, and our hearts yearning to return home. AND, beloved, we now know the way back home.

From the moment of birth, possibly from the moment of conception, we humans long for something outside of ourselves. I believe St. Augustine was the one to coin the phrase "We have a God shaped hole in our being, waiting to be filled." (that is a paraphrase.) Given who we are....stubborn, rebellious and self-absorbed human beings, we try to fill that hole with everything possible except the one person who is meant to fill it. That person is God. Yes, that is God with a capitol "G".

The "...One God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisble: And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; begotten of his Father before all worlds were made, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God; begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made..." - Nicene Creed

The one true, creator God, not made by mankind, unknown and unknowable by mankind, except through his Son, Jesus Christ, who, by his own free will chose to take on mortal flesh, chose to live among us, know us our dusty lives. He chose to feel heat and cold and temptation and rage and sorrow. He lived and died as one of us. His human form died on the cross. In choosing that horrific death, he chose to take all sins, past/present/future, upon himself as the ultimate sacrifice for ALL mankind...for those who confess his name. He made it possible for ALL of us to be able to fill that God shaped hole and know beyond knowing, that we can settle that restless longing and go home to our true home, in Christ, in God.

Ash Wednesday: "Remember, O man, that dust thou art; and to dust thou shalt return... "

Once we shed this earthly shell, subject to heat and cold and pain and all manner of affliction; subject to aging and temptations, battered, bruised, broken and just not quite comfortable. Once we die, then our new history begins as we stand before the Throne to be dealt justice as to our lives. We will ALL be found wanting and sinners. The only grace by which we will be saved is the fact that the judge already knows us.

He is Jesus, the Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, who suffered ubearable pain on the cross for one reason...that we might be cleansed of all imperfections, sins and suffering and made whole.

You see, beloved, it is our stubborn, self-willed, sinful nature that caused Jesus to hang on the cross. It is our choice to turn over our lives and wills to him that allows us to be saved. That is the ultimate sorrow and the ultimate joy, entwined in one being: Jesus, our Judge and Lord, our Brother, and our Sacrifice and Saviour.

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