Tag Archives: lent

Getting a glimpse of Pascha: Lazarus being untied

untieing of Lazarus.jpg

Walking through Lent the Church gives us key glimpses, that is, tastes through the liturgical narrative leading to Pascha (Easter).

 

The icon shows Lazarus being untied of his burial shroud. In fact, this metaphor of being untied is key: the crucified and risen Lord unties us of our sin to live in freedom.

 

A hymn at Lenten Vespers is revealing:

“O Lord, while dwelling in the flesh on the other side of Jordan, Thou hast foretold that the sickness of Lazarus would not end in death, but that it had come to pass for Thy glory, O our God. Glory to Thy mighty acts and Thine all-sovereign power, for Thou hast destroyed death in Thy great mercy and Thy love for mankind.”

Pope and the curia on retreat

Francis and curia on lenten retreatThe annual lenten retreat for the Pope and the curia is not at the Apostolic Palace. This year, the Spiritual Exercises are being given at a retreat house of the Pauline Family, in Ariccia [site of the composition of the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World of Vatican II], a town about 20 miles southeast of Rome. Msgr. Angelo De Donatis, a popular spiritual director and Roman pastor in the city center of Rome. The retreat runs March 9-14.

Like Pope Francis and others, we need to sit and listen to the Word of God. Are you spending time in prayer?

“Those who live a retreat in an authentic way,” the pope recently said, “experience the attraction and fascination of God and return renewed and transfigured in their daily lives, their ministry and their relationships.”

Francis met March 3 with an Italian federation of spiritual directors and those who run retreat houses throughout the country, offering Christians “space and time to listen intensely to the word of God in silence and in prayer.”

May the Holy Spirit be with those making the Exercises.

Don’t dialogue with Satan, Pope exhorts

Today’s Angelus Address of the Pope gave a wonderful reminder of how you live your spiritual life –or not. This Pope is good for telling us that the devil is lurking, tempting humanity and trying to compromise our faithfulness to God. In my experience I am happy that Francis is pointing out that we need to be careful not try to overpower the enticements of the Evil One. He’s not to be fooled with; pay attention to the Holy Father.

The Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent each year presents the story of Jesus’ temptations, when the Holy Spirit, having descended upon Him after His baptism in the Jordan, urged Him to openly confront Satan in the wilderness for forty days, before beginning His public mission.

The tempter tries to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, that is, from the path of sacrifice, of love that offers itself in expiation; to make Him take an easy road, [a road] of success and power. The duel between Jesus and Satan is takes place with quotations from the Holy Scriptures. The devil, in fact, to divert Jesus from the way of the Cross, makes present to him the false messianic hopes: economic well-being, indicated by the ability to turn stones into bread; a spectacular and miraculous style, with the idea of casting Himself down from the highest point of the Temple of Jerusalem and being saved by angels; and finally the shortcut of power and domination, in exchange for an act of worship to Satan. There are three groups of temptations. We also know them well.

Jesus decisively rejects all these temptations and reaffirms [His] firm intention to follow the path established by the Father, without any compromise with sin or with the logic of the world. Note well how Jesus responds: He doesn’t dialogue with Satan, as Eve did in the terrestrial Paradise. Jesus knows well that one can’t dialogue with Satan, because he is so cunning. For this reason, instead of dialoguing, as Eve did, Jesus chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and to respond with the power of this Word. Let us remind ourselves of this in the moment of temptation, of our temptation: not arguing with Satan, but defending ourselves with the Word of God. And this will save us. In His responses to Satan, the Lord — using the Word of God — reminds us, first, that “one does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3), and this gives us strength, sustains us in the fight against the worldly mentality that lowers human beings to the level of their basic needs, causing them to lose the hunger for what is true, good, and beautiful, the hunger for God and His love. He also recalls, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” ( v. 7) , because the road of faith also passes through darkness, doubt, and is nourished by patience and persevering expectation. Jesus notes, finally, that “it is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve,’” that is, we must get rid of idols, of vanities, and build our lives on the essentials.

These words of Jesus will then find concrete responses in His actions. His absolute fidelity to the Father’s plan of love will lead Him, after about three years, to the final confrontation with the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11), in the hour of the Passion and of the Cross, and there Jesus will achieve His final victory, the victory of love!

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent is a favorable opportunity for all of us to make a journey of conversion, sincerely confronting ourselves with this page of the Gospel. We renew the promises of our Baptism: we renounce Satan and all his works and seductions — because he is a seducer, right? — in order to walk the paths of God and “to arrive at Easter in the joy of the Holy Spirit” (cf. Collect of the First Sunday of Lent, Year A).

Temptation of the Lord, and ours

Francis baptizing 2014Today in the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass we hear the gospel narrative of Jesus being tempted by Satan. Even Satan tries to lure the Son of God away from the center. The fact that Satan attempts to make another offer to the Lord whom he knows of his origin ought to indicate to us that we are also under attack. The preparation of Lent for Easter exactly poses for us a renewal of faith in the One to whom we owe everything. At the Easter Vigil we will renew our baptismal vows rejecting sin and the temptations of Satan.

The First Sunday of Lent poses for us the same question Jesus was confronted: to whom do you belong? Obviously, Jesus knew to whom He belonged, but do we?

When faced with personal temptation can we say with Jesus, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”

A reflection by Saint Gregory Nazianzen reminds us of a central aspect of our baptism:

We must not expect baptism to free us from the temptations of our persecutor. The body that concealed him made even the Word of God a target for the enemy; his assumption of a visible form made even the invisible light an object of attack. Nevertheless, since we have at hand the means of overcoming our enemy, we must have no fear of the struggle. Flaunt in his face the water and the Spirit… Strong in our baptism each of us can say ‘I too am made in the image of God, but unlike you, I have not yet become an outcast from heaven through my pride. I have put on Christ; by my baptism I have become one with him. It is you that should fall prostrate before me!’

Fasting was instituted by Our Lord

Yesterday for Ash Wednesday, I proposed that we listen to the words of Saint John Chrysostom on the subject of fasting. Perhaps a more modern person, Saint Francis de Sales, is in order for fasting as a key discipline of Lent. De Sales preached the following. Thanks to Dom Hugh for bringing this excerpt to light which bears a little reflection form us all:

To treat of fasting and of what is required to fast well, we must, at the start, understand that of itself fasting is not a virtue. The good and the bad, as well as Christians and pagans, observe it. The ancient philosophers observed it and recommended it. They were not virtuous for that reason, nor did they practice virtue in fasting. Oh, no, fasting is a virtue only when it is accompanied by conditions which render it pleasing to God. Thus it happens that it profits some and not others, because it is not undertaken by all in the same manner… We know very well that it is not enough to fast exteriorly if we do not also fast interiorly and if we do not accompany the fast of the body with that of the spirit

We must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, wholeheartedly, universally and entirely. If I recount to you St. Bernard’s words regarding fasting, you will know not only why it is instituted but also how it ought to be kept.

He says that fasting was instituted by Our Lord as a remedy for our mouth, for our gourmandizing, and for our gluttony. Since sin entered the world through the mouth, the mouth must do penance by being deprived of foods prohibited and forbidden by the Church, abstaining from them for the space of forty days. But this glorious saint adds that, as it is not our mouth alone which has sinned, but also all our other senses, our fast must be general and entire, that is, all the members of our body must fast. For if we have offended God through the eyes, through the ears, through the tongue, and through our other senses, why should we not make them fast as well? And not only must we make the bodily senses fast, but also the soul’s powers and passions — yes, even the understanding, the memory, and the will, since we have sinned through both body and spirit.

Ash Wednesday, 1622

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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