Tag Archives: lent

Ash Wednesday

imposing ashesFor 40 days we enter into a period of fasting and prayer just as the Lord did in the wilderness, facing the Evil One, in preparation for his public ministry. The hallmarks, to be effective, have to sting a little. Prayer, fasting and the act of almsgiving ought to be intensified since these things are done throughout the year. That is, I need to be personally involved in lenten practices and we ought to feel the sacrifice of time, the intellect, and the will. The journey of faith is none other than fighting with sin and accepting the sovereignty of God in and over our life. We call this a journey for a precise reason: we are never finished turning our life with the help of grace to the Author of Life. In time it is hoped, that our measure is replaced by Christ’s, the influence of the powers-that-be is changed to the influence of the Messiah. Lent is the yearly reminder that heaven is our goal, the joy of new life is given to us because this is God’s desire for us. Zero-in on the Lord’s Passion and receive the gift of resurrection. Pope Francis said today in Rome,

Ash Wednesday, begins our Lenten journey of penance, prayer and conversion in preparation for the Church’s annual celebration of the saving mysteries of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. In these days the Church asks us to ponder with joy and gratitude God’s immense love revealed in the paschal mystery and to live ever more fully the new life we have received in Baptism. This journey of spiritual renewal in the footsteps of Christ also calls us to acknowledge and respond to the growing spiritual and material poverty in our midst. Specifically, it means consciously resisting the pressure of a culture which thinks it can do without God, where parents no longer teach their children to pray, where violence, poverty and social decay are taken for granted. May this Lent, then, be a time when, as individuals and communities, we heed the words of the Gospel, reflect on the mysteries of our faith, practice acts of penance and charity, and open our hearts ever more fully to God’s grace and to the needs of our brothers and sisters.

Since I like the Church Fathers, it seems that St. Maximus the Confessor has something to say to us:

God’s will is to save us, and nothing pleases him more than our coming back to him with true repentance. The heralds of truth and the ministers of divine grace have told us this from the beginning, repeating it in every age. Indeed, God’s desire for our salvation is the primary and preeminent sign of his infinite goodness, and it was precisely in order to show that there is nothing closer to God’s heart that the divine Word of God the Father, with untold condescension, lived among us in the flesh, and that he died, suffered, and said all that was necessary to reconcile us to God.

The wisdom of trusted Fathers of the Church s helpful:

The life of a monk [actually, use Christian] ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit. In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing. (Rule of St. Benedict)

Growing in Freedom through forgiveness beginning in Lent

forgivenessThe Christian approach is to “give something up” for Lent as a way change one’s sinfulness to a life of holiness. At least that’s the hope. Typically we fail pretty early in our lenten practices because the sting of the sacrifice is not really present in the way we live and we don’t see the point. Our walk with Jesus Christ has to be more than a Cadbury Easter Egg. What are you are you giving up for Lent? And, why? What is driving you to give up thus-and-such for Lent? Can mercy be a real way of living for you?

In what ways would your life be different if you made an offering to God that included giving up several unseemly attitudes that if you were serious your life would be fundamentally happier?

Forgiveness is God’s gift to us. Will we receive this gift and share it with others? Forgiveness means everything…it is the method of living the proclamation of the Gospel. Forgiveness always a new day to us to live in freedom and it takes us out of the ghetto called religion.

Here’s a proposal of letting go:

Arrogance, intellectual and affective
Blame, bitterness and resentment
Doubt in faith, hope and love
Envy and excuses
Fear of failure, lack of courage
Feelings of unworthiness and guilt
Gossip and negativity
Impatience with self and others
Lack of counsel
Preferring other things to Christ
Presumption, pride and worry: thinking that God is on my side at all times for all reasons
Refusing the hand offered in friendship
Refusing to honor the other person
Refusing to have mercy on others
Self-pity
Sense of entitlement and a spirit of consumerism.

Lenten penance according to St Augustine: fast from discord, and forgive

For anyone still deciding what to give up for Lent, (Ash Wednesday is around the corner) or even for those who have decided, here’s a great suggestion from Saint Augustine that may be helpful:

“Before everything else, brothers and sisters, fast from quarrels and discord…. If you want to shout, use the kind of shouting about which [Scripture] says, ‘With my voice I shouted to the Lord’ {Psalm 142.1}. That indeed is not a shout of quarreling, but of loving; not of flesh, but the heart….

Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you’ {Luke 6.37-38}. These are the two wings of prayer, on which it flies to God; if you pardon the offender what has been committed, and give to the person in need.”

[Sermon 205, On the Beginning of Lent]

Christ the reconciler

cross detail3When you attend and pray Holy Mass today you’ll likely notice that Catholics are moving toward Ash Wednesday, March 5. As you know, Ash Wednesday marks the opening of the penitential season, a time of preparation for the annual remembering and living more intensely our faith (anamnesis in technical terms) of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus: His life, death, resurrection and Ascension.

Today, the Catholic Church has various liturgical observances for the Sunday celebration of Mass. The Ordinary Form of the Mass celebrates the 6th Sunday of the Year, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass marks today as Septuagesima Sunday (that is, 70 days before Easter). Our Eastern Catholic sisters and brothers have various ways to mark the preparation for Easter.

Lent has developed over the centuries from the earliest times of Christianity and what is now spoken of as the ashes of penitence and the period of time were given to the Church in the 6th and 7th centuries. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass, for example, maintains three Sundays preceding Ash Wednesday called Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, that is respectively, the seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth days before Easter Sunday. The Ordinary Form of the Mass has dropped these preparatory Sundays thus isolating the tradition of preparing for Lent seen in the older form of the Mass and what is lived by the Eastern Churches. Nevertheless, these numbers help us to use the Scriptures in an Old Testament typological way. The Old Testament informs, prepares and opens us up to the work of the Messiah. Hence we say that the number seventy recalls for us the seventy years of the Jewish people living in exile in Babylon. Upon hearing this we ask, how do we live in exile from the fullness of communion with God? What is pondered in the sacred Liturgy is pondered in our personal life. The First Sunday of Lent, Quadragesima, is the beginning of the Lenten fast of forty days.

Since most Catholics will hear the gospel Matthew (5:17–37) for the 6th Sunday through the Year, here is a reflection taken from Saint John Chrysostom:

“Christ gave his life for you, and do you hold a grudge against your fellow servant? How then can you approach the table of peace? Your Master did not refuse to undergo every kind of suffering for you, and will you not even forgo your anger? Why is this, when love is the root, the wellspring and the mother of every blessing? ‘He has offered me an outrageous insult’, you say, ‘he has wronged me times without number, he has endangered my life’. Well, what is that? He has not yet crucified you as the Jewish elders crucified the Lord. If you refuse to forgive your neighbor’s offense your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins either. What does your conscience say when you repeat the words: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name’, and the rest? Christ went so far as to offer his blood for the salvation of those who shed it. What could you do that would equal that? If you refuse to forgive your enemy you harm not him but yourself…The reason the Son of God came into the world was to reconcile the human race with the Father. As Paul says: ’Now he has reconciled all things to himself, destroying enmity in himself by the cross’. Consequently, as well as coming himself to make peace he also calls us blessed if we do the same, and shares his title with us. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, he says, ‘for they shall be called children of God’. So as far as a human being can, you must do what Christ the Son of God did, and become a promoter of peace both for yourself and for your neighbor. Christ calls the peacemaker a child of God. The only good deed he mentions as essential at the time of sacrifice is reconciliation with one’s brother or sister. This shows that of all the virtues the most important his love.”

Francis’ homily for Holy Thursday 2013

procession into the chapel of Father of Mercies.jpg

Lent ends and the sacred Triduum begins with the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper, with the rite of Washing of Feet (known also as the Mandatum). In Rome, the Pope offered Mass at the Casal del Marmo, an inner city detention center. In the chapel dedicated to the title of “Father of Mercies,” were 40 young detainees gathered around him for Mass, 12 youth, Catholics and non-Christians, 2 of whom were young women and 2 Muslims, had their feet washed by the Pontiff. Concelebrating the Mass were Cardinal Agostino Vallini (the Pope’s Vicar for the Diocese of Rome), Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu (‘Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretary of State), Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, (Chaplain to the Casal del Marmo, and papal secretary), 2 deacons, one deacon from the Seminario San Carlo (the Seminary of the Fraternity of St Charles Borromeo) and another, Brother Roi Jenkins Albuen, a Capuchin of the “Addolorata” with Father Gaetano Greco.  Also there were two young seminarians from the Roman Seminary with the assistant chaplain, Colombian Father Pedro Acosta.

Pay attention to what the Pope says!!!!   Also, some photos.


Father of Mercies chapel.jpg

Here’s Vatican Radio transcript and translation of the Holy Father’s unscripted homily:

“This is moving, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Peter understands nothing. He refuses but Jesus explains to him. Jesus, God did this, and He Himself explains it to the disciples.. ‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do’.

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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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