The Spanish nun and mystic, St. Theresa of Avila, has written, “Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one Glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.”
God’s perspective is all-encompassing. In our limited language we say, God can see from the beginning to the end and everything in between. God is infinite. God is everywhere and nowhere. We, on the other hand, are quite finite. We are stationary. We have a perspective that is most often hemmed in by our particular circumstances and limited vision. And yet … we are told by mystics and teachers alike, that we are to become more like God. We are challenged to look beyond our limitations and see the broader perspective that God beholds.
Each Lent we have a new opportunity, a new reminder, to look beyond our limited horizon and see into the world beyond our simple confines. The traditional Lenten practices of prayer, almsgiving, and penance each play a part in helping us to broach our narrow vision and participate more fully in God’s perspective. Prayer opens us to reach out and be receptive to our God. It gives us the opportunity to beseech on behalf of others, while at the same time expanding our own heart and soul. Almsgiving also calls us to look beyond our own needs and to look to the needs of others. The Orthodox specifically call almsgiving, the act of mercy. Not only are we to open our pockets, but we need to open our hearts to those beyond our usual scope of concern. And, penance teaches us that to reach for God’s perspective, we need to utilize discipline and determination to look up and away from the present moment. In this way we may grasp the panoramic vision of the “one Glory” to which St. Theresa refers.
St. Theresa tells us above that we only have one opportunity, one life in which to look beyond the local horizon. Lent is a reminder of our one soul to which we must attend. The time is short. The stakes are the highest. As we approach the end of this Lent, may we reach higher towards God’s perspective and open our hearts to the love and mercy proclaimed by Jesus the Christ, whose Life, Death, and Resurrection we celebrate at each Eucharist.