Joy and… judgement?

Lent has now begun.
And it started for me, as it does for many Christians, by being marked with ash on my forehead in the sign of the cross.

Memento Mori.

Remember you are but dust, and to dust you shall return.

It’s a poignant reminder that over the centuries Lent has been a penitential time of preparation for Easter. A time for self-reflection and acknowledgement of the necessity of the death of Christ upon the Cross for our sins, and to remember the significance, the life changing all encompassing loving liberation significance, of the resurrection at Easter!

I remember this time last year noticing something within the liturgy of penitence. A pinprick of light within the smog of darkness. It registered, but faded. This year the spark caught my imagination more persistently. Here’s where it comes in the liturgy:

From all evil and mischief;
from pride, vanity, and hypocrisy;
from envy, hatred, and malice;
and from all evil intent,
good Lord, deliver us.

From sloth, worldliness and love of money;
from hardness of heart
and contempt for your word and your laws,
good Lord, deliver us.

From sins of body and mind;
from the deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil,
good Lord, deliver us.

In all times of sorrow;
in all times of joy;
in the hour of death,
and at the day of judgement,
good Lord, deliver us.

It’s the last four lines which stood out to me.

Last year I remember that the line about joy seemed peculiar, almost out of place.

The structure, in my mind, would look like this


But this year I clocked it again, but this time I paired it with the line about judgement.


And that interested me.

Joy and Judgement.


I don’t normally associate the two with one another. Judgement seems like a negative thing.

“You’re so judgemental!”

But recently I’ve been reflecting on ‘A song of the Wilderness’ a canticle used sometimes during Advent, which is based on Isaiah 35.

In there is we encounter this:

Say to the anxious, “Be Strong, fear not,
Your God is coming with Judgement,
Coming with judgement to save you.”

Judgement here is vindication, liberation and justification. It’s the lifting up of the weak and the defence of the maligned.

That’s not dissimilar from the creed: he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

It can be easy to get wrapped up in the smog of sin, death, negativity and chaos and to think of judgement as something unpleasant, uncomfortable and disquieting.

Yet the pinprick of light, the glimpse of hope, here in the penitential liturgy caused me to associate that judgement with joy.

And I think that’s only right and proper.
Afterall, there’s no Lent without Easter.

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