26 February 2014

What Lent Should Be

As is often revealed in the preaching method of the Caroline Divines, we behold the deep and powerful way in which lectio divina transforms the mind and method of speech. Words learnt by heart become prayers of the heart. 

From the Anglican divine Mark Frank's Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent, we find a strong admonition enjoining us to the proper keeping of an holy Lent which also underlines for us now what must be undertaken from being shriven on Shrove Tuesday and commencing the Fast on Ash Wednesday: 

NOW is the very time we must begin our reconcilement, look to our salvation; that though the name of Lent should be distasteful yet, however, we may not slip our time. 

It is the only sure part of time we have, the present the only 'day of salvation;' for, peradventure, ere the next moment we are gone, and clearly cast without the confines of it. 

Not only then 'to-day, whilst it is called to-day,' 
but even 'now,' whilst it is called 'now,' 
is the sure 'now of salvation.'

Nor is it time to dally now. Time is a flitting past; day runs into night ere we are aware: this 'now' is gone as soon as spoken; and no certainty beyond it, and no salvation if not 'accepted' ere we go hence. 

THERE is 'a time to be born' in, and 'a time to die' in. 

Lent, a time to die unto the world, and to be born and live to Christ.

 It is 'a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;' to plant virtue, and to pluck up vice.

 It is 'a time to kill, and a time to heal;' to kill and mortify our earthly members, and to heal the sores and ulcers that sin hath made, by a diet of fasting and abstinence.

 It is 'a time to break down, and a time to build;' to break down the walls of Babylon, the fortresses of sin and Satan, and to build up the walls of the New Jerusalem within us.

 It is 'a time to weep, and a time to laugh;' to weep and bewail the years we have spent in vanities, and yet rejoice that we have yet time left to escape from them.

 It is 'a time to mourn, and a time to dance;' to manifest our repentance by some outward expressions, and thereby dispose ourselves every day more and more for Easter joys.

 It is 'a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;' to remove every stone of offence, and, as 'lively stones, to be built up,' as St. Peter speaks, 'into a spiritual house.'

 It is 'a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from all wanton and loose embraces, and pour out ourselves wholly into the arms of our blessed Jesus.

 It is 'a time to get, and a time to lose;' to get heaven by violence, and lose earth, our worldly goods upon alms and charities; to cast away earth to purchase heaven.

 It is 'a time to keep, and a time to cast away;' to keep all good resolutions, and cast away the bad ones.

 It is 'a time to rend, and a time to sew;' to rent and tear off all ill habits, and to begin good ones.

 It is 'a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;' to keep silence from bad words, all idle and wanton and scurrilous language, and give ourselves to good discourses.

 It is 'a time of love, and a time of hate;' to love God, and hate ourselves; or love our souls, and hate our sins.

 It is, in a word, 'a time of war, and a time of peace;' to make war against all our ghostly enemies, the flesh, the devil, and the world, and reconcile ourselves to God, our neighbour, and the Church. 

To all these purposes serves the time of Lent; for them it was instituted at first, and for them it is continued.
Mark Frank
pray for us.