Tag Archives: lent

How are you approaching Lent this year?

Grant, O Lord, that Thy faithful may begin the solemn days of Lent with fitting piety and may persevere therein with steadfast devotion.

It is time to “begin the time of fasting with joy, submitting ourselves to spiritual struggle” in preparing to live fully the Paschal Mystery of the Lord (His saving life, death, resurrection and Ascension). “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 540).

St Gregory delivers soul of monk GBCrespi.jpgWhat is asked of those who make the claim to follow Christ? It seems to me that the path to understanding and living these 40 days of Lent in order to live the rest of the year as a true, honest, loving Christian. Lent, oddly enough, is a joyful time when we have a focused embrace of the spiritual struggle played out in acts of contrition, purification and prayerfulness. Often we hear Lent reduced to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. True enough, those are the hallmarks of Lent. But to broaden our sense of Lent let’s think that there is time for fasting, abstinence from certain foods, ways of thinking, acting, speaking, simple living (frugality), restriction of personal desires, intense prayer, confession of sins, and similar ascetic elements are essential to the period of Lent. Lent is a time for good work on the soul and the heart (and the body if need be). No doubt if we take Lent seriously and actually do some these spiritual works, they may be burdensome obligations or unbearable duties. We may even feel a bit despondent or dejected. The spiritual fathers and mothers all tell us that to truly follow Christ with any degree of honesty we have to work on changing our lives by conforming the self to Christ, even if it hurts. How do know how conform the self to Christ? Do lectio divina (see entry 1 and entry 2), pray the rosary, go to confession, do charitable work, spend time in silence alone in personal prayer, adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and go to Mass. And read a good book on the Catholic faith.


The liturgical season of Lent is 40 days -not a long period of spiritual training–and it ought to be regarded as an invaluable and divine gift from a God who loves us and wants us to be in relationship with Him. It is a sacred time of divine grace, which seeks to detach us from things material, lowly and corrupt in order to attract us toward things superior, wholesome and spiritual (see Catechism 1434-9). As one Christian leader said, “Lent is a unique opportunity to remove from the soul every passion, to rid the body of everything superfluous, harmful and mortal. Accordingly, then, it is a time of immense rejoicing and gladness. Lent is a genuine feast and time for exhilaration!”

Fasting expected of us by the Church, as well as the abstinence, frugality, restriction of personal desires and unnecessary pleasures or expenses, literally constitute a prescription for salvation. This is especially true this year, when our world has experienced a global economic crisis, filled with imminent danger of bankruptcy not only for individuals and companies, skyrocketing unemployment, the creation of entire hosts of people plagued by poverty, nihilism, depression, crime, and other societal ills. Lent is an education that labors to instruct us in a particular daily journey with not a great sense of “success,” without the arrogance and entitlement of extravagance, waste and bravado. It encourages us to surrender all forms of greed and ignore the challenges of commercial advertising, which constantly promotes new and false necessities (see Catechism 1430-3).

The Lenten season provokes us to limit ourselves to what is absolutely essential and necessary in an attitude of dignified, deliberate simplicity. Christian leaders advise us not to be a consuming or compulsive herd of thoughtless and heartless individuals, but a culture of sensitive and caring persons, sharing with and supporting our “neighbor” that is in poverty or recession. Finally, Lent informs us about patience and tolerance in moments of smaller or larger deprivation, while simultaneously emphasizing the need to seek God’s assistance and mercy, placing our complete trust in His affectionate providence.

That is how Christ envisions Lent. That is how the saints lived Lent. This is how the Church Fathers undertakes the struggle of Lent. This is how our faith has traditionally understood Great Lent. This is how the Church in Rome observes Lent. What about you?

Clean Monday…getting into Great Lent

Thumbnail image for St Andrew of Crete.jpg

For Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christians, today is “Clean Monday,”
the first day of the Great Fast. In many of these churches, the faithful will
gather tonight for the service of Compline with the singing of a portion of the
“Penitential Canon,” also known as the “Great Canon of St.
Andrew of Crete.” The
First Ode of the Great Canon uses as a springboard
the text of the Canticle of Moses contained in Exodus 15: 1-19. The
singing of the Great Canon in the First Week of the Great Fast, is intended to
invoke compunction in the penitent heart.

(Irmos) A Helper
and Protector has become salvation to me.

This is my God; I
will glorify Him.

God of my fathers,
I will exalt Him;

for in glory has He
been glorified!


Glory to You, our
God, glory to You!
(or the refrain changes to “Have mercy on me, O God,
have mercy on me!” when sung at Compline in the first of the Fast)

Where shall I begin
to lament the deeds of my wretched life?

What first-fruits
shall I offer, O Christ, for my present lamentation?

But in your
compassion, grant me release from my sins.

Glory to You…

Come, wretched

with your flesh
confess to the Creator of All.

In future, refrain
from your former brutishness

and offer to God
tears in repentance.

Glory to You…

Having rivaled the
first-made Adam in my transgressions,

I realize that I am
stripped naked of God

and of the
everlasting kingdom of bliss through my sins.

Glory to You…

Alas, wretched

Why are you like
the first Eve?

For you have
wickedly looked and been bitterly wounded,

and you have
touched the tree

and rashly tasted
the forbidden fruit.  (cf Gen. 3:6)

Glory to You…

The place of bodily
Eve has been taken

by the Eve of my

in the shape of a
passionate thought in the flesh,

showing me sweet

yet ever making me
taste bitter things.

Glory to You…

Adam was rightly
exiled from Eden

for not keeping
Your one commandment.

O Savior, what
shall I suffer,

who am always rejecting
Your living words? (cf. Gen. 3:26/Acts 7:38)


Glory to the Father
and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!

Trinity adored in

take from me the
heavy yoke of sin,

and in Your

grant me tears of

Now and ever and
forever. Amen.

O Theotokos,

hope and
intercessor of those who sing to you,

take from me the
heavy yoke of sin,

and as you are our
pure Lady,

accept me that


Helper and a Protector is He unto salvation.

He is my God, and I
glorify Him;

God of my fathers,
and I magnify Him,

for He is greatly

…one must not sleep during this time…the sacred Triduum is upon us

Crucifixion Giotto.jpgHow marvelous, and at the same time amazing, is this mystery! We can never meditate this reality sufficiently. Jesus, though being God, did not want to make of his divine prerogatives an exclusive possession; he did not want to use his being God, his glorious dignity and power, as an instrument of triumph and sign of distance from us. On the contrary, “he emptied himself” assuming our miserable and weak human condition –in this regard, Paul uses a quite meaningful Greek verb to indicate the kenosis, this descent of Jesus. The divine form (morphe) is hidden in Christ under the human form, namely, under our reality marked by suffering, poverty, human limitations and death. The radical and true sharing of our nature, a sharing in everything except sin, leads him to that frontier that is the sign of our finiteness  –death. But all this was not the fruit of a dark mechanism or a blind fatality: It was instead his free choice, by his generous adherence to the salvific plan of the Father. And the death which he went out to meet –adds Paul– was that of the cross, the most humiliating and degrading that one can imagine. The Lord of the universe did all this out of love for us: out of love he willed to “empty himself” and make himself our brother; out of love he shared our condition, that of every man and every woman. In this connection, Theodoret of Cyrus, a great witness of the Eastern tradition, writes: “Being God and God by nature and having equality with God, he did not retain this as something great, as do those who have received some honor beyond their merits, but concealing his merits, he chose the most profound humility and took the form of a human being” (Commentary on the Letter to the Philippians, 2:6-7).

Pope Benedict XVI, Wednesday General Audience, 8 April 2009, excerpt

Not only the Passion but the Resurrection

Ambrose.jpgSaint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, reminds us of this: ‘We must observe not only the day of the Passion, but the day of the Resurrection as well. Thus, we will have a day of bitterness and a day of joy; on the one let us fast, on the other let us seek refreshment…During this Sacred Triduum…Christ suffered, rested and rose from the dead. Of that three day period he himself says: ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Epistle 23).

Our Lenten observances, indeed our whole life of faith, have been a preparation for this celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery, our redemption from sin. May all of us bear witness to this joy in our daily lives; not only now but all through the year. And may our celebration of the Triduum be a time to reflect on our redemption through Christ, the eternal gift to us sinners from God the Father.

Spy Wednesday

Kiss Of Judas Giotto.jpgToday we recall the words Jesus spoke to Judas at the Last Supper, “The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24). Judas has become is synonymous with the act of betrayal. In the Inferno, Dante places Judas in the very lowest circle of Hell, being devoured eternally by a three-faced, bat-winged devil:



When we had gotten far enough along
that my master was pleased to let me see
the creature who was once so fair of face
he took a step aside, then brought me to a halt:
‘Look there at Dis! And see the place
where you must arm yourself with fortitude.’
Then how faint and frozen I became,
reader, do not ask, for I do not write it,
since any words would fail to be enough.
It was not death, nor could one call it life.
Imagine, if you have the wit,
what I became, deprived of both.
The emperor of the woeful kingdom
rose from the ice below his breast,
and I in size am closer to a giant
than giants are when measured to his arms.
Judge, then, what the whole must be
that is proportional to such a part.
If he was fair as he is hideous now,
and raised his brow in scorn of his creator,
he is fit to be the source of every sorrow.
Oh, what a wonder it appeared to me
when I perceived three faces on his head.
The first, in front, was red in color.
Another two he had, each joined with this,
above the midpoint of each shoulder,
and all the three united at the crest.
The one on the right was a whitish yellow,
while the left-hand one was tinted like the people
living at the sources of the Nile.

Judas Bottechelli.jpgBeneath each face two mighty wings emerged,
such as befit so vast a bird:
I never saw such massive sails at sea.
They were featherless and fashioned
like a bat’s wings. When he flapped them,
he sent forth three separate winds,
the sources of the ice upon Cocytus
Out of six eyes he wept and his three chins
dripped tears and drooled blood-red saliva.
With his teeth, just like a hackle
pounding flax, he champed a sinner
in each mouth, tormenting three at once.
For the one in front the gnawing was a trifle
to the clawing, for from time to time
his back was left with not a shred of skin.
‘That soul up there who bears the greatest pain,’
said the master, ‘is Judas Iscariot, who has
his head within and outside flails his legs
‘As for the other two, whose heads are dangling down,
Brutus is hanging from the swarthy snout —
see how he writhes and utters not a word! —
‘and from the other, Cassius, so large of limb.
But night is rising in the sky. It is time
for us to leave, for we have seen it all.’ (Canto XXXIV)

Judas tree.jpg 

According to the pious legend, the tree upon which Judas hanged himself was the Cercis siliquastrum, also called the “Judas Tree.” It is a beautiful tree, native to the Mediterranean region, which produces brilliant deep pink flowers in the spring; the flowers are said to have blushed in shame after Judas’s suicide.

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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