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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Repentance and Contemplative Prayer

The story of the woman accused of adultery reveals the plight of humanity in the Cosmos. Christ turns a circus of shame into a confessional, a heartless courtroom into a garden of encounter. The Lord's finger cultivates the barren ground of hopelessness into the fertile soil of new beginnings.

Just as when she was brought before the Lord condemned, we too stand alone, scapegoat of an oversexed culture and the object of unchaste rage. As was the case with her, all sorts of spiritual powers demand justice and point out our shame. The accusations seem well grounded and we feel the ground under our feet slipping towards death. Then Someone bends to the earth and scribbles in the dust. What once seemed firm gives way to his touch and what once faltered beneath the weight of our sin now is suddenly firm. In the aftermath of this earthquake, those who would condemn us have left and we find ourselves alone with the Great Alone. He questions us. Will we dare approach Him and stammer our reply?


If we seek Him, the Lord will draw us by his beauty. Where he draws us is more than merely a physical place. And He stands us up and addresses us. With the touch of His finger, our accusers have lost their ground. He draws us out of shame and accusation and into a new beginning, out of the gutter and into safe-haven, out of the pigsty and into the arms of the One who has long awaited our coming home. He does not wish us to be distracted with lesser things, so He arranges everything to free us from what holds us back: terrible trials, catastrophe, failures, voids, unbearable hardships in life and in the heart. All of these become so many thresholds to freedom when we realize that we are not alone, that He leads us through them and that, come what come may, we can trust Him. He even transforms sin into a means of grace when we surrender it to Him in sorrow. He draws us to where the longing of our hearts at last discover fulfillment.


In the imagery of the Song of Songs, this sacred place is a vineyard, an orchard, a garden, a hidden wine cellar. These images of paradise speak of friendship, fruitfulness, family, and feasts. In the very shadows of these rich mysteries, the original goodness and nobility given to the human heart flash anew despite it all. On this holy ground, the heart's purpose is manifest in pledges of love stronger than death. There is freedom, repentance and new resolve. In this sacred place, joy and sorrow seize the soul until it explodes with life and meaning. The way we had always hoped things might be, we suddenly discover are unimaginably more than so. Hidden fullnesses rush in to fill that gnawing emptiness and we who were lost find ourselves standing just where we ought to be, together, before Him whose love surpasses our every hope.


And in that deep silence, He gazes into the eyes. The ears take in His harmonies and in the deepest down core of one's being, something new is born. This newness is a reality for which this tired-out world cannot account and it will last long after all that is passing passes away. For as beautiful as the world in its order and ornament is, what God has done in the human heart is so even more. A new creation begins when heart speaks to heart, when the Word of the Father shines in the darkness, when He is lifted up, when He draws us to Him.

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