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Welcome to the first episode of “New and Contrite Hearts,” a series of daily meditations based on the Collects of the Day, prayers from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Collects are intended to gather the people and to provide a focus for daily and Sunday worship.  The name “New and Contrite Hearts” comes from the collect assigned for Ash Wednesday.

The meditations are available online in both oral and written forms. Our approach is to use a variation of Visio Divina, which means “sacred sight,” and inviting us to take a deep dive into scriptures by meditation on the passage paired with a photographic image.

We recommend that you try this four-step method:

Read or listen to the passage carefully, taking note of a word or phrase that elicits a reaction.

Look deeply into the image, selecting a portion that especially captures your attention.

Reflect prayerfully on any thoughts, feelings or meanings that arise for you.

Act decisively to make a difference.

So let’s begin. 

First, Read or Listen:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Look:

Next, let’s focus on the image selected for today. Look generally getting a sense of the overall mood of the image…then more closely. What captures your attention? Where are you drawn? Perhaps the path through the forest. Does the path look difficult or easy? Are the trees peaceful, or is there dynamic energy?  Do their limbs appear to be wrestling with something?  Reaching up?  What do you notice?

Reflect:

Consider why this image may have been selected for Lent. Often Lent is pictured as a journey, with an uncertain destination, with our ability to see only a short distance ahead.  Today’s prayer reflects a deep yearning for renewal, for something new to occur at the very heart, the core of our existence.  A wish for a deepening of relationship with the Divine.  The prayer reminds us that we need to acknowledge our “sin.”  And not only acknowledge, but lament.  Consider the meaning of lamentation.

Act:

To become new. In some sense, this requires that we set aside something old, something no longer needed, something that gets in the way of our having the kind of heart, the compassionate heart, that we all need and that the world so desperately needs.  What in your life do you lament?  What needs to change?  Identify what that is for you.  Today take a step along the path that leads to real change.  And know that you are not on this journey alone, but with others…and that others are looking to you for encouragement, support and a sign of hope.

Music: “Ambient Sonata” Album: Ambient Sonata Artist: Dee Yan-Key

Image: “Woodland Path” Place: Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina Photographer: Jon Shematek

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