Monday, February 26, 2007

Merton - a suitable thought for Lent?

The Holy Spirit never asks us to renounce anything without offering us something much higher and much more perfect in return. Self-chastisement for its own sake has no place in Christianity. The function of self-denial is to lead to a positive increase of spiritual energy and life. The Christian dies, not merely in order to die, but in order to live...

Seasons of Celebration [SC]. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1950. p. 130.

Merton has put his finger on the fundamental agreement between the penitential understanding of Lent, and the life-affirming understanding of the season. It's like CS Lewis' picture of the demon of lust, having been killed by the angel, being transformed into a glorious, and rideable, stallion. (The Great Divorce Bles, 1946; Fount, 1977. pp. 89 ff) But Lewis' demonised ghost suffered when its familiar was killed, and we shouldn't think that the pain of that death will be more bearable in view of the life to follow - cf. Mark 8:34. I imagine it's a bit like trying to explain to a cow why she must have her feet trimmed, or to a little boy why he has to go to the dentist...

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