Tag Archives: lent

The Observance of Lent in the Rule of Saint Benedict

Although the life of a monk ought to have about it at all times the character of a Lenten observance, yet since few have the virtue for that, we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent the brethren keep their lives most pure and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the negligences of other times.

And this will be worthily done
Monk3.JPGif we restrain ourselves from all vices and give ourselves up to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.

 

During these days, therefore, let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service, as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink. Thus everyone of his own will may offer God “with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6)
something above the measure required of him.

From his body, that is he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting; and with the joy of spiritual desire he may look forward to holy Easter. Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot what it is that he wants to offer, and let it be done with his blessing and approval.

For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father will be imputed to presumption and vainglory and will merit no reward.

Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot’s approval.

 

Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 49

O sacred head, surrounded

O sacred head, surrounded
Crucified Lord Meister Francke.jpgby crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding head, so wounded,
reviled and put to scorn!
Our sins have marred the glory
of thy most holy face,
yet angel hosts adore thee
and tremble as they gaze

I see thy strength and vigor
all fading in the strife,
and death with cruel rigor,
bereaving thee of life;
O agony and dying!
O love to sinners free!
Jesus, all grace supplying,
O turn thy face on me.

In this thy bitter passion,
Good Shepherd, think of me
with thy most sweet compassion,
unworthy though I be:
beneath thy cross abiding
for ever would I rest,
in thy dear love confiding,
and with thy presence blest.

 

(asc. to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, 1091-1153)

Christ the Grain that Dies and Yields Much Fruit

Commentary on the Book of Numbers

Saint Cyril of Alexandria

 

As the first-fruits of our renewed humanity, Christ escaped the curse of the law precisely by becoming accursed for our sake. He overcame the forces of corruption by himself becoming once more “free among the dead.” He trampled death under foot and came to life again, and then he ascended to the Father as an offering, the first-fruits, as it were, of the human race. “He ascended,” as Scripture says, “not to a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the real one, but into heaven itself, to appear in God’s presence on our behalf.” He is the life-giving bread that came down from heaven, and by offering Himself to God the Father as a fragrant sacrifice for our sake, he also delivers us from our sins and frees us from the faults that we commit through ignorance.

 


Grain of Wheat.jpgThe human race may be compared to spikes of wheat in a field, rising, as it were, from the earth, awaiting their full growth and development, and then in time being cut down by the reaper, which is death. The comparison is apt, since Christ Himself spoke of our race in this way when He said to His holy disciples: “Do you not say, ‘Four months and it will be harvest time?’ Look at the fields I tell you, they are already white and ready for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving his wages and bringing in a crop for eternal life.”

 

Now Christ became like one of us; He sprang from the holy Virgin like a spike of wheat from the ground. Indeed, He spoke of Himself as a grain of wheat when he said: “I tell you truly, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains as it was, a single grain; but if it dies its yield is very great.” And so, like a sheaf of grain, the first-fruits, as it were, of the earth, he offered Himself to the Father for our sake.

 

For we do not think of a spike of wheat, any more than we do of ourselves, in isolation. We think of it rather as part of a sheaf, which is a single bundle made up of many spikes. The spikes have to be gathered into a bundle before they can be used, and this is the key to the mystery they represent, the mystery of Christ who, though one, appears in the image of a sheaf to made up of many, as in fact he is. Spiritually, He contains in Himself all believers. “As we have been raised up with Him,” writes Saint Paul, “so we have also been enthroned with Him in heaven.” He is a human being like ourselves, and this has made us one body with Him, the body being the bond that unites us. We can say, therefore, that in Him we are all one, and indeed He Himself says to God, His heavenly Father: “It is my desire that as I and You are one, so they also may be one in us.”

Vexilla Regis, The Royal Banner forward goes

The Royal Banner forward goes,
Vexilla Regis.jpgThe mystic Cross refulgent glows:
Where He, in Flesh, flesh who made,
Upon the Tree of pain is laid.

 

Behold! The nails with anguish fierce,
His outstretched arms and vitals pierce:
Here our redemption to obtain,
The Mighty Sacrifice is slain.

 

Here the fell spear his wounded side
With ruthless onset opened wide:
To wash us in that cleansing flood,
Thence mingled Water flowed, and Blood.

 

Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song, of old:
Unto the nations, lo! saith he,
Our God hath reignèd from the Tree.

 

O Tree! In radiant beauty bright!
With regal purple meetly dight!
Thou chosen stem! divinely graced,
Which hath those Holy Limbs embraced!

 

How blest thine arms, beyond compare,
Which Earth’s Eternal Ransom bare!
That Balance where His Body laid,
The spoil of vanquished Hell outweighed.

 

O Cross! all hail! sole hope, abide
With us now in this Passion-tide:
New grace in pious hearts implant,
And pardon to the guilty grant!

 

Hail wondrous Altar! Victim hail!
Thy Glorious Passion shall avail!
Where death Life’s very Self endured,
Yet life by that same Death secured.

 

Thee, mighty Trinity! One God!
Let every living creature laud;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost deliver,
O guide and govern now and ever! Amen.

 

Translation from “The Psalter of Sarum”: London 1852.

 

Tonight we sang this hymn, in translation of course. The hymn “Vexilla Regis” was composed by Saint Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) and considered by many to be one of the greatest of the sacred Liturgy. “Vexilla Regis” was composed for the reception of a Relic of the True Cross by Queen Radegunda for her monastery church at near Poitiers, France. A processional hymn “Vexilla Regis” is sung when the Blessed Sacrament is taken from the repository to the altar on Good Friday. It is the proper Vespers hymn sung from Passion Sunday to Holy Thursday and on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The Church sings it at Vespers from the First Vespers of the 5th Sunday of Lent until the Wednesday of Holy Week.

The Cross is an expression of Life


cross.jpgIn the Bible the cross is the expression of a life that is completely being for others. It is not man who goes to God with a compensatory gift, but God who comes to man, in order to give to him. He restores disturbed right on the initiative of his own power to love, by making unjust man just again, the dead living again, through his own creative mercy.

 

In the New Testament the cross appears primarily as a movement from above to below. It does not stand there as the work of expiation which mankind offers to the wrathful God, but as the expression of that foolish love of God’s which gives itself away to the point of humiliation in order thus to save man; it is his approach to us, not the other way about.

 

Benedictus
Pope Benedict XVI

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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