Lent 2022


Lent 2022: Opening a Pomegranate


A Reflection for Ash Wednesday

Rend your hearts, not your garments[.]

Every year, we begin Lent with these lines from the Prophet Joel. And for completely inexplicable reasons, every year, they bring to my mind another set of lines about hearts being torn open, from D.H. Lawrence’s poem “Pomegranate”: For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken. It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack.

It can be hard to find the correct attitude for approaching Lent. It’s a delicate spectrum. We’re tempted to a kind of self-flagellation that is performative and self-pitying and outward-facing. This is what Jesus warns against in today’s Gospel. And on the other side, we’re tempted to shame, which denies our lovability and tries to avoid others, including God, altogether. Both of those are essentially selfish because they’re about how we appear in the eyes of others. They externalize something that, Joel tells us, should happen in the very innermost core of our being. But “heartrending,” in English, connotes a particularly unselfish kind of sorrow. Our own plights are rarely heartrending. We use the word when we see something that tears our hearts open with compassion for someone else.

And this is why I like to think of opening a pomegranate, instead.

Can you imagine cracking your heart open like a pomegranate? Time-consuming, bloody business. But good fruit spills forth. Room is made for the seeds that God has planted to sprout. The sun shines through, lovely and dawn-kaleidoscopic. Rending a garment is destructive and wasteful, but splitting open our hearts makes room for us to grow.

These last two years have been plenty heartbreaking and full of growth for so many of us, and I know—oh, boy, do I know—that it feels utterly impossible to crack ourselves any wider. But I ask these questions anyway, as we walk together into this Lent: What breaks your heart? What cracks you open? What do you find heartrending?

Have you been avoiding those things? Guarding your heart? Afraid of what you might feel compelled to do or stop doing if you let yourself be broken more often?

And what practices and disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving can you engage to experience more of those heart-wrenching, heart-cracking moments in these forty days?

Traditional Jewish mysticism teaches that pomegranates have 613 seeds, one for each of the commandments. Let’s do our best to dig 613 seeds out of our hearts this Lent, trusting that our Father who sees what is hidden will mend and repay us.

Jacqui Oesterblad GRD '22

Jacqui Oesterblad is pursuing her graduate degree at Yale Law School.