Every Lent I throw a little purple cloth on my personal altar and place there an empty bowl. Sometimes the bowl is wooden, sometimes glass, sometimes clay or pewter. It doesn’t matter what kind of bowl; what matters is that the bowl offers me a vacant space. If there was no available space it would just be a chunk of wood or a lump of clay or metal. It is that inviting free space that enables it to be a receptacle. The emptiness empowers it to receive. Into that unocuppied space I gaze with wistful eyes and longing heart. Desire for God is, after all, one of the primary aspirations of the monastic heart, and so my Lenten Longing almost always, in some form or another, focuses on my desire to become a space for God and others. The empty bowl is symbolic of my desire to be free of the clutter that stands in the way of my love poured out. I put my heart into that empty space and wait for God. I want to be available. And so my Lenten questions are similar from year to year:
What prevents me from being available to those who need my love?
What blocks my heart?
What smothers my love?
What stifles my enthusiasm for life?
What limits my relationship with God, self and others?
Where do I need to loosen my grip and open my heart?