Date: February 12, 2021
By: Maria N.
It started in high school for me, being a big Beatles fan! I loved their catchy tunes, diverse song themes, and humour in their music. But I do remember questioning one phrase (among many hahaha) from their ever popular song: Strawberries Fields Forever. They claimed that “living is easy with eyes closed." Respectfully, Lennon, I beg to differ! In my own experience, the more I close my eyes to reality and cling to my perception of reality, the more I seem to struggle with my relationship with myself, those close to me, and with God.
When I hide behind the trap of self-righteousness or I find myself thinking I’m holier, smarter, funnier, prettier, than others, I suffer.
When I avoid the way I don’t look into myself and be honest about my shortcomings, my impatience, my easily bruised ego, my tendency to succumb to anxiety, and how I hurt those closest to me, I am living with eyes closed. It must not be easy or fair for those around me to endure my brokenness.
Because of this, I’ve discovered that self-awareness is a beautiful thing. And not only a beautiful thing but a necessity for a healthy and mature interior life that leads to holiness. In fact, self-awareness is so critical that the saints wrote extensively on it. Mystics like St. Teresa of Avila, to St. Augustine of Hippo, to St. Catherine of Siena.
“Self-knowledge is so important that, even if you were raised right up to the heavens, I should like you never to relax your cultivation of it.” -St. Teresa of Avila
“Lord, let me know myself; let me know you.” -St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
So how do we go about unfolding self-knowledge?
St Catherine of Siena writes:
“The soul, who is lifted by a very great and yearning desire for the honour of God and the salvation of souls, begins by exercising herself, for a certain space of time, in the ordinary virtues, remaining in the cell of self-knowledge, in order to know better the goodness of God towards her. This she does because knowledge precedes love and only when she has attained love, can she strive to follow and to clothe herself with the truth. But, in no way, does the creature receive such a taste of the truth, or so brilliant a light therefrom, as by means of humble and continuous prayer, founded on knowledge of herself and of God.”
It seems that St. Catherine wisely suggests to start our journey of self-awareness by deepening our understanding of God's goodness and mercy towards us. How do we develop this? We can achieve this by the practice of “humble and continuous prayer." Through prayer, we can contemplate the love God has for us. Then we can be equipped and courageous enough to receive this two-fold truth, the truth of His immense love for us while at the same time receiving the truth of how and why we need to allow his Spirit to transform us.
The more we come to see the beauty of our Lord on a personal level, the more we come to see the truth of ourselves. When we allow more of God’s light in, the parts of ourselves covered in darkness now have a spotlight and we are faced with our selfishness, our coping mechanisms, and our twisted desires. We find ourselves uncovering more sin and darkness than we had possibly anticipated. That is why St. Catherine knowingly suggests to start this journey of self-awareness with a strong foundation of the knowledge of God’s love for us, so we can be sustained during this process of uncovering. This is a process where the more knowledge we have of Him, leads to more knowledge of us, leads to more knowledge of Him. It is a beautiful continuation of growth.
My prayer for you this coming Lent, is for you to enter into the depths of your soul. Allowing yourself to discover the many pathways, bridges and sometimes broken walkways of your heart and let the Lover of your soul heal you, restore you, and fortify the walls of your soul. We can do this by immersing ourselves daily into the Word. Perhaps you want to consider practicing Lectio Divina?. I have heard it said that practicing Lectio Divina helps you not only read what God said but helps you enter in to what God is saying. This encounter with the Person of Christ allows us to receive Him and hence bear the Saviour, the Healer, and can open our eyes to the divine healing and restoring power He is offering us in the upcoming season of Lent.
"This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Let your eyes be opened!