Tag Archives: lent

Is Lent a time of healing for you?

In the Syriac Christian tradition the healing power of
Christ is presented to the faithful, by the Church, by knowing that the believing community of faith, is the Lord’s bride and our
mother. We know this experientially through the sacramental ministries of the priesthood. Saint Ephrem prays to Christ crucified and risen:

With three medicines

You have cured our sickness;

Humanity was weak, suffering and failing;

You have strengthened it by you blessed bread,

You have consoled it with your sober wine,

And You have given it joy with your anointing.

 

Lent is the springtime of our healing in mind, body and soul. Lent is a time to have the
great reversal happen: from weakness to strength, from sickness to health, from sinfulness to a
life of grace. This is all possible in the confession of sins, the worthy
reception of the Holy Eucharist, and the luscious anointing of the Holy Spirit
pour out over us.

Purifying our love

Let’s face it: many Christians find Lent meaningless. There are some among us who get their ashes, make some crazy resolution –give up the daily consumption of 5 beers, are nice to a sibling, do homework– to make “penance” and the season of Lent more “holy.”  Silly things at Lent beget shallow experiences of conversion, perhaps even lend to a falsification of the Christian witness at during the time of Lent. Read the Pope’s lenten addresses an see what he has to say about the nature of this season we call purposeful, holy, penitential, even great. He would agree with me (wow that could be dangerous!) that unless you take Christ seriously who is standing in front of you in the person of your neighbor, Lent is going to be boring and miserable. How pure is your love for Jesus? How does your love for Jesus made real, concrete, fruitful? The following 3 paragraphs may begin to help answer these questions. Emphasis mine.

Christ attracts me primarily through things and people. My wounded, tired soul could stop at that. Idolatry is nothing other than to confuse the creature with the Creator, which is why there is a continual need for the purification of love.

My comments here come directly from a saying of Fr. Giussani that I have referred to many, many times and that, in the book I wrote about him, I cited as one of the loftiest, most impressive and truly innovative points in the Church’s recent
history: the definition of virginity as distance in possession, or possession that includes distance in it. We must take this expression in its entirety. In it is the exaltation of the human in Christ, which so characterized Fr. Giussani’s entire life, and the inevitability of sacrifice, which he always cited as the condition of the road. No one wants to do away with or repress friendship and sentiments, or to put them “in parentheses”, but we must be very clear and ask ourselves: what does God want of me? And what does that mean for the other, in light of the road that God has assigned to him?

Christ is not paradoxicalChrist gives us an abundance of human affections to help us to understand what it means to love him. It doesn’t scandalize me when someone says: “It seems that I love that person more than I love Jesus”, because our path towards the Infinite is without end, and, before you love the God that you don’t see, you love the neighbor that you see. But love the neighbor that you see so as to walk toward God, to walk toward the fullness of yourself.

An excerpt from an address tilted, “Our Fulfillment” by Father Massimo Camisasca, founder of the Fraternity of Saint Charles

The Fraternity is an international missionary congregation of priests begun in 1985 as a response to the work of Monsignor Luigi Giussani. The Fraternity has about 100 priests in 20 countries and 30 in formation to be ordained priests. To read the rest of the address, click here.

The crucible of Lent: the Embertide

Transfiguration GBellini.jpgIn the reformed Catholic Liturgy we hear little of the traditional days throughout the year given by the Church to pray in a more intense way and to fast in the light of the sacred Liturgy. Namely, Ember Days. Not only is it Lent but this week, Wednesday (today), Friday and Saturday, we have something extra added (at least we did, let me explain below): we offer to God the work and fruit of the season of spring and we ask God for blessings. In the old way of doing things deacons were ordained priests on Saturday. An intense sensibility of prayer and fasting make these days notable.

Catholics should always situation themselves in the context of the Liturgy (that is, Lauds, Vespers & Mass) with the minor though NOT incidental liturgical observances like Ember days that happen about quarterly in the calendar year. Before the promulgation of the Missal of Paul VI (the style of Mass we now have) there was a tradition of specifically gathering on three days, three times a year which correspond to the seasons of the year. In addition to what said above about the character of the Ember Days, one can also emphasize the purpose of these days as to place before the Lord our own struggle to live a life of holiness asking for the grace to continue without back-sliding (which is easy to do for many of us). The work to overcome our disordered concupiscence (conversion of morals) is difficult and excruciatingly painful at times. And to be honest, it’s only possible to advance in the spiritual life with the abandonment of self to God unreservedly. What the Church proposes is that we consider the Scripture narrative of the Transfiguration of the Lord (seen on the right by Giovanni Bellini) as an apt motif for our own desire to change for the better.

Even though the reflections offered at the New Liturgical Movement blog are within the perspective of the Missal of John XXIII (the 1962 Missal), it is worth noting what the two writers say about the Lenten Ember Days because the liturgical practice is correct and helpful for all of us.
I, for one, would love to see a reclaiming of the Embertide traditions if not in the actual restoration to the liturgical observance then in teaching the faithful through the normal channels of CCD, bulletin teaching and preaching. What is striking about the Embertide liturgy is the use of sacred Scripture: the number of readings increase thus giving a fuller plate of the word of God for our meditation.
Here is the post on the Ember Days in the Fall.
Let us ask Mary, Mother of God, refuge of sinners, to aid us with her prayers.

Is our practice of charity leading us anywhere?

How often do you think about the spiritual acts that you do, let’s say for Lent, are pleasing God? Why are you do act of penance? Really, why are you “giving something up for Lent”? If you are doing something to observe the 40 days of Lent, what or who is your guide, and why? How sufficiently aware are you when it comes to your attitudes, desires, ways of interacting with others? When I read the following passage these and other questions surfaced because the author is dead-on. In fact, he cuts a little too close to the heart.


By means of Scripture, the Church instructs her
children in the true meaning of Lenten penance for, as St. Leo the Great
comments: it is useless to deny food to the body if the soul does not reject
sin (4th Sermon of Lent). If mortification does not lead to an interior effort
to eliminate sin and practice virtue, it cannot be pleasing to God, who wants
us to serve him with a heart that is humble, pure and sincere
.


Selfishness and
the tendency to assert our ego too often lead us to put ourselves at the center
of the universe; we trample on the rights of others and in doing so evade the
fundamental law of brotherly love. That is why those Jews who fasted, wore
sackcloth and slept on ashes, but did not cease oppressing their neighbors,
were severely rebuked by God and their acts of penance were rejected
. It is of
little or no use to impose physical privations on ourselves if we are unable to
renounce our own interests in order to respect and promote those of our
neighbor; if we will not give up our views in favor of some one else’s; if we
do not try to get along with everyone and bear wrongs patiently
.

Sacred
Scripture makes it very definite that what makes penitential practices
acceptable to God lies in the area of charity
.


Divine Intimacy
Father Gabriel
of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD

Lent: the verification if Christ really came to save us

Being that today is the first Sunday of Lent, I am drawn to reflecting what it means to “live Lent” and to know better what is supposed to happen to me during Lent with all this prayer, fasting and charity. To begin understanding Lent I’ve turned to Father Alexander Schmemann’s book, Great Lent (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press). Here are some excerpts:


When a man leaves on a journey, he must know where he is going. Thus with Lent. Above all, Lent is a spiritual journey and its destination is Easter, “the Feast of Feasts.” It is the preparation for the “fulfillment of Pascha, the true Revelation.” We must begin, therefore, by trying to understand this connection between Lent and Easter, for it reveals something very essential, very crucial about our Christian faith and life.

crucifix Bardi.jpg

Is it necessary to explain that Easter is much more than one of the feasts, more than a yearly commemoration of a past event? Anyone who has, be it only once, taken part in that night which is “brighter than the day,” who has tasted of that unique joy, knows it. […] On Easter we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection as something that happened and still happens to us. For each one of us received the gift of that new life and the power to accept it and live by it. It is a gift which radically alters our attitude toward everything in this world, including death. It makes it possible for us to joyfully affirm: “Death is no more!” Oh, death is still there, to be sure, and we still face it and someday it will come and take us. But it is our whole faith that by His own death Christ changed the very nature of death, made it a passage — a “passover,” a “Pascha” — into the Kingdom of God, transforming the tragedy of tragedies into the ultimate victory. […]

Such is that faith of the Church, affirmed and made evident by her countless Saints. Is it not our daily experience, however, that this faith is very seldom ours, that all the time we lose and betray the “new life” which we received as a gift, and that in fact we live as if Christ did not rise from the dead, as if that unique event had no meaning whatsoever for us? […] We simply forget all this — so busy are we, so immersed in our daily preoccupations — and because we forget, we fail. And through this forgetfulness, failure, and sin, our life becomes “old” again — petty, dark, and ultimately meaningless — a meaningless journey toward a meaningless end. […] We may from time to time acknowledge and confess our various “sins,” yet we cease to refer our life to that new life which Christ revealed and gave to usIndeed, we live as if He never came. This is the only real sin, the sin of all sins, the bottomless sadness and tragedy of our nominal Christianity.


If we realize this, then we may understand what Easter is and why it needs and presupposes Lent. For we may then understand that the liturgical traditions of the Church, all its cycles and services, exist, first of all, in order to help us recover the vision and the taste of that new life which we so easily lose and betray, so that we may repent and return to it. […] And yet the “old” life, that of sin and pettiness, is not easily overcome and changed. The Gospel expects and requires from man an effort of which, in his present state, he is virtually incapable. […] This is where Great Lent comes in. This is the help extended to us by the Church, the school of repentance which alone will make it possible to receive Easter not as mere permission to eat, to drink, and to relax, but indeed as the end of the “old” in us, as our entrance into the “new.” […] For each year Lent and Easter are, once again, the rediscovery and the recovery by us of what we were made through our own baptismal death and resurrection.


A journey, a pilgrimage! Yet, as we begin it, as we make the first step into the “bright sadness” of Lent, we see — far, far away — the destination. It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom. And it is this vision, the foretaste of Easter, that makes Lent’s sadness bright and our lenten effort a “spiritual spring.” The night may be dark and long, but all along the way a mysterious and radiant dawn seems to shine on the horizon. “Do not deprive us of our expectation, O Lover of man!”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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