wine-cheese.jpgSome Lenten thoughts from St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “Love is an affection of the soul, not a contract. Moving us freely, it makes us spontaneous. … It is stupidity and madness to want always that which can neither satisfy nor even diminish your desire. … The Just are feasting and rejoicing in the sight of God, delighting in their gladness. Here is fullness without disgust; here is insatiable curiosity without restlessness; here is that eternal, inexplicable desire knowing no want. At last, here is that sober intoxication of truth, not from overdrinking, not reeking with wine, but burning for God.”

Desire is powerful stuff. In Psalm 63, David likens his desire for the presence of God to his experience in the wilderness while he was on the run as a fugitive from King Saul; longing for the dawn, absolutely parched with thirst in a dry, sleepless land. The kind of thirst where it is all one can think about, where your entire body cries out for a drop of water.

In Isaiah 55, the writer seeks to awaken the desire of the Exiles in Babylon to turn around and walk away from their live by appealing to physical needs and desires that can be satisfied; a banquet invitation, with sumptuous wine, fresh milk, and the satisfaction of bread. The chapter, as is virtually all of the second scroll of Isaiah, is an ode to joy, the joy of being offered the chance to be redeemed.

But there is no compulsion; as the Qur’an reminds us, “There is no compulsion in religion.” And neither is there in these texts; rather, the writers seek to awaken desire to turn by likening it to the desires of the body, for food, wine, milk, music, quiet rest, the company of others, and, as in the Song of Songs, in sexual ecstasy. Isaiah loves to remind us that this is a new thing he is doing; unlike with Egypt, which was absolutely a compulsion, God’s new act is not at all forced; and our writers know that many will ignore the new thing unless it stirs desire.desire-1.jpg

Is our desire strong enough to allow Yhwh to do a new thing? Is it strong enough to live a perpetual Lent, where the call to repentence is as strong as our bodily desires for satisfying hunger, slaking thirst, and consummating sexuality?

Let us Bless the Lord.