Friday, March 3, 2017

Catholic Hermit: Contrite Heart; Penthos; Mournfulness

As for mournfulness, I consider these additional, inner traits of the mind, heart, and spirit: penthos and contrition.

The Psalmist reminds us that the Lord desires not holocausts or sacrifices but rather a humbled heart and contrite spirit.  Contrition comes from the root contrere, meaning "rub together" and later, "ground down."  To be contrite is to not just feel remorse and sorrow for something done that is wrong, sinful, but to actually experience the contrition, the remorse and sorrow.  One's mind, heart and very soul rub up against the wrong thought, word, action that the conscience reveals.

Asking God for forgiveness and also making amends and trying to right the wrong--the sin--brings brings contrition to refreshment and peace.

Penthos represents the Greek personification of guilt, remorse, sorrow.  The word has evolved to the action of mourning, and in Christianity, the mourning and sorrow over guilt of sin be it individual sin or collective guilt of the sins of mankind.  There is a spiritual gift that comes sometimes--unexpectedly so as graces are bequeathed by God--when contrition, repentance, and a deep, inner grasp of the guilt of sin is essentially washed away by what is known as holy weeping or tears.

Perhaps closest to mournfulness is penthos, for there is a good in mourning for our sins and the sins of others.  Yet mournfulness can move from the good of its purpose in sorrow for sins and in contrition's remorse but also in the outflow of repenting, of conversion from sins and making amends for wrongs be it of our own sins or in reparation for others' sins, for collective sins of which we as part of the human race all share, one with another, in various degrees and forms.

Yet mournfulness can become an attitude and a modality of daily life which may not be helpful to the soul or to others, and not what God desires of us.  I consider and reflect upon Isaiah's  [Ch. 58] exhortation of the type of fasting that pleases God (and surely is of best soul benefit, in His divine will).  

"This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless,
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say:  Here I am!"

While fasting is a form of making right our sins, we must first recognize our sins whether personal or collective, and then forgiven by God, to go forth and make amends.  

Another aspect of contrition for our sins that God desires, is humility of heart.  The Psalmist sings an excellent prescription for contrition, penthos, reparation, and the freeing, joyful, merciful love of God's forgiveness.

"Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always;
'Against you only have I sinned, 
and done what is evil in your sight.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn."

It is not easy for this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit to express the present moment, personal thoughts, for mournfulness does have its place in our spiritual lives.  I suppose it comes down to knowing when mournfulness is no longer necessary, such as when we are forgiven.  Or when mournfulness is not helpful, such as in discerning what attitude and action God prefers if our mournfulness becomes rather habitual or a learned affect from environmental situations and role modeling.  

Being forgiven is truly, in faith, a full and complete God-forgiveness of our sins.  Weeping, guilt, sorrows, and mournfulness is to give way to peace, uplift, joy, freedom of spirit--yet still with humility of heart--a heart brimming with the healing spirit of God's Love.

Thus, perhaps I am seeing and learning something of myself, already in Lent.  Perhaps it was sensing the mournfulness in not all but somewhat in the affect of my own perpetuating of what can sometimes be learned behavior and attitude in certain worship situations or in regard to certain topics and stances Catholic.

I have been mournful far too often and for extended time periods in situations not best serving the Lord in mournfulness and somber visage of face and inner disposition of mind and heart.  I can have remorse for this learned aspect and what effect it may have had on my son when a youth.  In addition to my physical suffering and sorrows of unfortunate life hardships, I was too often mournful and thinking this was the way of being a serious Catholic.

I'm not going to berate myself beyond a humble and contrite apology to God and asking forgiveness for whatever ways I was not a positive nor accurate witness to God's mercy and forgiveness.  And I will express my apologies to my son, praying for the best time and format to do so.  It may be today, or not yet.  In making reparation for our wrong doings whether intentional or not (mine was not at all intended in this case!), we must pray for wisdom of the Holy Spirit for those we may have affected may not be receptive at the same time we realize our wrong doing.

A contrite spirit and humbled heart, however, is not at all mournful.  The mourning period is past, long gone with the very first inkling of offering God our offense(s) with accompanying asking Him to forgive us--to wipe clean the slate of our hearts.  And in His mercy, He can heal the memories that we humans can tend to keep cluttered with our sins beyond the good of their being benchmark lessons to help keep us from temptation to repeated sins....

When are the times in our present moments when our hearts sing?  Or are our hearts laden with on-going mournfulness, especially in certain situations that could and perhaps ought be forthright yet promisingly joyful?  

I today ask these questions for myself of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit, of God the Father, and of Mother Mary--for I desire his mercy and love in the fullness of forgiveness no matter how many times I sin or grasp the collective sin of humanity.

[Note: To gain a beautiful and beneficial understanding of penthos, I highly recommend a book I read several years ago that covers well the truth and beauty of recognizing our sins, expressing remorse, asking forgiveness, making reparation, and having appropriate grieving-turned-to-joy of salvation.  The title is simply, Penthos; the author is Ireneus Hausherr, SJ.]

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