Monday, February 27, 2017

I Must Decrease so Christ can Increase

What to Give Up for Lent?

Sacrificing and giving things up for Lent creates an opportunity for us to be mindful and appreciative of God’s unending love, embodied in Christ giving up his life for us. The focus of Marianist spirituality is on virtues in conformity with Christ in the deepest part of our being and in all our actions. Marianist spirituality includes exercises designed for us to give up control of our life and give ourselves over to God’s will for us. Discipline and self-mastery are necessary to follow Jesus. But that isn’t easy. As I think of giving things up this Lent, I think of silencing my personal desires and actions. Marianist spirituality consists of virtues called the silences:

  • Silence of Words
  • Silence of Signs
  • Silence of the Mind
  • Silence of the Passion
  • Silence of the Imagination

These are things I wish to silence and give up for Lent.

Fr. Quentin Hackenewerth, SM author of A Manual of Marianist Spirituality says of the silences (pages 43-45):

Silence of Words
We become conscious of our words in order to speak deliberately and purposefully for the good of our listeners. Words reveal and communicate. Even ordinary words have great power. Words can enlighten, inspire, and encourage. They can heal and console. Words born in communion with Christ or Mary are carriers of life. Of course, our words, when they come from egoism, can also do the opposite. We silence the words coming from the interest of our egoism. Like Jesus, we want to speak words born of attentive listening and understanding.

Silence of Signs
We communicate much more by noverbals than we do by words. The look in our eyes, the expression on our face, the movement of our head, the stance of our posture, and the style of our dress (as well as thousands of other signs) tell others what we mean to them and they to us. Our very presence “speaks.” So we give close attention to what we are communicating with our facial expressions, gestures, dress, manners, etc. Are they coming from our old self-image or from our new image in Christ?

Silence of the Mind
That which goes into our mind becomes a part of us. We live and act according to what we know. If we fill our mind with mush, we become milksops. Our aim is to take on the mind of Christ. So we fill our mind with what is good or useful in view of our calling. We put out of our mind what serves on the demands of our ego or sensuality.

Silence of the Passions
Passions are the desires or feelings that move us to act in a certain way. Practically all of our actions are moved by some feeling. If we want to understand our actions, we must discover to what or to whom our feelings are attached. The more our feelings are attached to something, the more hey push us toward it. Are we attached more to our old self of to life in Christ? Silence of the passions is the exercise of denying our self-indulgent feelings and of becoming passionate in Christ for what is good.

Silence of the Imagination
Images usually move us more than ideas. Our imagine gives us images of what is or of what could be. The exercise of silence of the imagination cultivates and disciplines our fantasy to serve our call. For example, images of living the virtues of Jesus in serving our neighbor can move us powerfully toward good. On the other hand, we silence those images which contradict our life in Christ.

As I practice these silences, I pray that I open my heart and life to God’s will, not mine. May I decrease so that Christ may increase (John 3:30).

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