[We cannot give ourselves] to the liturgy of Advent without being made aware that a sense of sinfulness is being forced upon us:
Deliver us from our sinfulness; break the chains that bind us captive: bring us out of darkness into light. Come, come!
This urgent cry is for what? To set us free. Free from what? Sin. No exceptions are allowed … and each individual calls out for his own personal deliverance and for that of the whole human race. But there is nothing depressing in this cry for deliverance and the deep consciousness of sin which prompts it.... The cry the liturgy puts on our lips is a cry not of despair but of absolute hope — the certain hope that God will come and save us. He is…always in movement towards his sinful creation, running to it with outstretched arms to enfold, to wipe away all tears, banish fear and haunting guilt, affording us utmost security in his forgiving love.
Some may feel that I speak too often of sin, rub it in too much. Others point out that what we need is encouragement, we are too aware already of our own miseries. But are we? Often what we are meaning and what we are confusing with an awareness of sin is self-disgust, self-disillusionment, which nearly every human being suffers from. We have an image in our mind’s eye of what we are like, or would want to be like, or think we are really meant to be like, and we fall short of it. We "lose face" in our own eyes, and perhaps in the eyes of others.... What we bewail is largely our human poverty, and this our Lord has no intention of taking away. This is what we would like to have removed from us. We are often far more concerned with this than with sin, and while we are occupied with it, battling against it, wringing our hands over it, we cannot be shown where real sin lies. An awareness of our real sinfulness is part of holiness. You simply cannot have holiness without it, for it is the inevitable effect of God’s closeness; and this is why true sorrow for sin is never morbid, depressed. It carries with it the certainty of forgiveness....
Come and enlighten us, Sun of holiness. Show us our sloth, our pride, our shirking of the demands of life, our evasions. Reveal to us our sinfulness in the light of your mercy, and then we shall be healed and know perfect joy.
Ruth Burrows. "Forgiveness of Sins." from Through Him, With Him, in Him: Meditations on the Liturgical Seasons (London, UK: Sheed & Ward Ltd., 1987).
Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing.
Ruth Burrows is the pen name of Sister Rachel, O.C.D., a nun of the Carmelite monastery at Quidenham in Norwich, England. Among her books are Guidelines for Mystical Prayer, Essence of Prayer, and To Believe in Jesus.Copyright © 1987 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
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