Lent Day 4: Thomas Moore

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Each day of Lent (minus Sundays) we'll bring you words of wisdom from spiritual guides.

4. Thomas Moore: Cleansing the soul
All religious traditions understand the need to prepare for a major spiritual moment by cleansing yourself of preoccupations, unconsciousness, self-centeredness, and distractions. The idea is not to become masochistic and punish yourself. Pleasure in self-denial sometimes sneaks into religious practice, but it only gives the illusion of being virtuous. The idea is to get ready for an intense participation in the great mysteries of Holy Week, which culminates in the ritual experience of death and rising.

Thinning out and simplifying a busy life helps create a focus on things that really matter at this time of year: reflection on suffering, deep Easter optimism, personal renewal, and hope. Today, in a time of world conflict and economic pressure, everyone knows how precious and elusive a genuine sense of hope can be.

You can also prepare your mind by reading intelligent books on the themes of Easter, rites of spring, and theology in general. You can nurture your spirituality by becoming more sophisticated about it, by keeping your religious education in step with secular developments. You can prepare your body through exercise and a simplified diet intended not just to lose weight but to gain spiritual substance. Most important, you can prepare your soul through service to those in need around you and through a renewal of relationships in general.

Lent should bring you to a point of spiritual intensity so that the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter touches the mystery of your own existence.

Moore was a Catholic monk for 12 years and is the author of several bestselling books, including Care of the Soul (HarperCollins).

Find spiritual advice for Lent from other guides in 40 days to a new you.