Lent & Holy Week: February 2010 Archives

My heart has prompted me to seek your face; I seek it, Lord; do not hide from me.

The Church observes the Second Sunday of Lent. The following hymn incorporates the texts from sacred Scripture.


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Gone forth from home with God to guide him,

Abram looked up and saw the sky:

"Even as stars you cannot number,

So shall your offspring multiply."

God there with Abram cov'nant made,

Promise that shall not change or fade.


Jesus went up upon the mountain,

And there, transfigured 'fore their eyes,

Saw  the disciples "law" and "prophets,"

Standing there next to Jesus' side.

"This is My Son, " they heard the voice;

"Listen to Him, He is My choice!"


Each of us, baptized in Christ Jesus,

Is launched on journey hard and long

Where we are daily called to cov'nant,

Following Christ with joyful song.

Do not give way!  Now faithful bide,

Clinging to Cross as boast and guide!

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.

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.
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
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.

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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!"
I present to you most of the Pope's homily for Ash Wednesday. Emphasis added to draw attention to some excellent ideas or turns of phrase.

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With this moving invocation, taken from the Book of Wisdom (cf 11:23-26), the liturgy introduces the Eucharistic celebration of Ash Wednesday. They are words that, in some way, open the whole Lenten journey, placing as their foundation the omnipotence of the love of God, his absolute lordship over every creature, which is translated in infinite indulgence, animated by a constant and universal will to live. In fact, to forgive someone is equivalent to saying: I do not want you to die, but that you live; I always and only want your good.

This absolute certainty sustained Jesus during the 40 days transpired in the desert of Judea, after the baptism received from John in the Jordan. This long time of silence and fasting was for him a complete abandonment to the Father and to his plan of love; it was a "baptism," that is, an "immersion" in his will, and in this sense, an anticipation of the Passion and the Cross. To go into the desert and to stay there a long time, alone, meant to be willingly exposed to the assaults of the enemy, the tempter who made Adam fall and through whose envy death entered the world (cf Wisdom 2:24); it meant engaging in open battle with him, defying him with no other weapons than limitless confidence in the omnipotent love of the Father. Your love suffices me, my food is to do your will (cf John 4:34): This conviction dwelt in the mind and heart of Jesus during that "Lent" of his. It was not an act of pride, a titanic enterprise, but a decision of humility, consistent with the Incarnation and the Baptism in the Jordan, in the same line of obedience to the merciful love of the Father, who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (John 3:16).

The Lord did all this for us. He did it to save us and, at the same time, to show us the way to follow him. Salvation, in fact, is a gift, it is God's grace, but to have effect in my existence it requires my consent, an acceptance demonstrated in deeds, that is, in the will to live like Jesus, to walk after him. To follow Jesus in the Lenten desert is, hence, the condition necessary to participate in his Easter, in his "exodus." Adam was expelled from the earthly Paradise, symbol of communion with God; now, to return to that communion and, therefore, to true life, it is necessary to traverse the desert, the test of faith. Not alone, but with Jesus! He -- as always -- has preceded us and has already conquered in the battle against the spirit of evil. This is the meaning of Lent, liturgical time that every year invites us to renew the choice to follow Christ on the path of humility to participate in his victory over sin and death.

Understood in this perspective also is the penitential sign of the ashes, which are imposed on the head of those who begin with good will the Lenten journey. It is essentially a gesture of humility, which means: I recognize myself for what I am, a frail creature, made of earth and destined to the earth, but also made in the image of God and destined to him. Dust, yes, but loved, molded by love, animated by his vital breath, capable of recognizing his voice and of responding to him; free and, because of this, also capable of disobeying him, yielding to the temptation of pride and self-sufficiency. This is sin, the mortal sickness that soon entered to contaminate the blessed earth that is the human being. Created in the image of the Holy and Righteous One, man lost his own innocence and he can now return to be righteous only thanks to the righteousness of God, the righteousness of love that -- as St. Paul writes --  was manifested "through faith in Jesus Christ" (Romans 3:22). From these words of the Apostle I took my inspiration for my Message, addressed to all the faithful on the occasion of this Lent: a reflection on the theme of righteousness in the light of the Sacred Scriptures and of its fulfillment in Christ.

Also very present in the biblical readings of Ash Wednesday is the theme of righteousness. First of all, the page of the prophet Joel and the Responsorial Psalm -- the Miserere -- form a penitential diptych, which manifests how at the origin of all material and social injustice is what the Bible calls "iniquity," that is, sin, which consists essentially in a disobedience to God, namely, a lack of love. "For I know my transgressions, / and my sin is ever before me. / Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, / and done that which is evil in thy sight" (Psalm 51 (50): 3-4). The first act of righteousness, therefore, is to recognize one's own iniquity, it is to recognize that it is rooted in the "heart," in the very center of the human person. "Fasting," "weeping", "mourning" (cf. Joel 2:12) and every penitential expression has value in the eyes of God only if it is the sign of truly repentant hearts. Also the Gospel, taken from the "Sermon on the Mount," insists on the need to practice proper "righteousness" -- almsgiving, prayer and fasting -- not before men but only in the eyes of God, who "sees in secret" (cf Matthew 6:1-6.16-18). The true "recompense" is not others' admiration, but friendship with God and the grace that derives from it, a grace that gives strength to do good, to love also the one who does not deserve it, to forgive those who have offended us.
Dear brothers and sisters, Lent lengthens our horizon, it orients us to eternal life. On this earth we are on pilgrimage, "[f]or here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come," says the Letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:14). Lent makes us understand the relativity of the goods of this earth and thus makes us capable of the necessary self-denials, free to do good. Let us open the earth to the light of heaven, to the presence of God in our midst. Amen.
Practice prayer from the beginning. Paint your house with the colors of modesty and humility. Make it radiant with the light of justice. Decorate it with the finest gold leaf of good deeds. Adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity. Crown it with the pinnacle of prayer. In this way, you will make it a perfect dwelling place for the Lord. You will be able to receive him as in a splendid palace, and through His grace you will already possess Him, His image enthroned in the temple of your spirit.

Saint John Chrysostom, homily read at Office of Readings, Friday after Ash Wednesday
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The last sentence of Pope Benedict's Wednesday audience today gives us a clue as to the reason why we begin a religious season of conversion, a yearly season of purification, he says: "40 days of intense prayer and sincere penance, to be able to celebrate, purified and completely renewed in mind and spirit, the great mystery of her Son's Easter." This is the point of ashes, penance, prayer, fasting, alms-giving--Easter!

The seminarians of Saint Joseph's Seminary --Dunwoodie, Yonkers, NY, returned to the seminary a couple of hours ago from being out all day imposing ashes on people at NYC churches: Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Saint Agnes, Our Lady of Victory and Our Lady of the Rosary. Seeming millions of people filtered through these churches. Certainly, Saint Patrick's saw 40-50 thousand people today and Saint Agnes (where I was with 5 other seminarians) saw about 7 thousand people come for ashes. It's tiresome to stand all day imposing ashes on gizilions of people repeating person-after-person the formula, "Remember that you are dust and dust you shall return." BUT it was good work for the Lord and for our sisters and brothers. On a personal note, I prayed my rosary and made my morning offering today for all the people upon whom I placed some ash as a token of the journey of conversion they've begun today by moving to the Last Supper, calvary and then unto empty tomb unto their salvation. The Pope's address today is another wonderful piece of practical theology moving us to the center of faith in Jesus Christ.

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the Lenten journey: a journey that extends over 40 days and that leads us to the joy of the Lord's Easter. We are not alone in this spiritual itinerary, because the Church accompanies and sustains us from the start with the Word of God, which encloses a program of spiritual life and penitential commitment, and with the grace of the sacraments.

The words of the Apostle Paul offer us a precise instruction: "Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: 'In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.' Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). In fact, in the Christian vision of life every moment must be called favorable and every day must be called the day of salvation. But the liturgy of the Church refers these words in a very particular way to the time of Lent. And that the 40 days of preparation for Easter be a favorable time and grace we can understand precisely in the call that the austere rite of the imposition of ashes addresses to us and which is expressed, in the liturgy, with two formulae: "Repent and believe in the Gospel," and "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."

The first call is to conversion, a word that must be taken in its extraordinary seriousness, discovering the amazing novelty it contains. The call to conversion, in fact, uncovers and denounces the easy superficiality that very often characterizes our way of living. To be converted means to change direction along the way of life -- not for a slight adjustment, but a true and total change of direction. Conversion is to go against the current, where the "current" is a superficial lifestyle, inconsistent and illusory, which often draws us, controls us and makes us slaves of evil, or in any case prisoners of moral mediocrity. With conversion, instead, one aims to the lofty measure of Christian life; we are entrusted to the living and personal Gospel, which is Christ Jesus. His person is the final goal and the profound meaning of conversion; he is the way which we are called to follow in life, allowing ourselves to be illumined by his light and sustained by his strength that moves our steps. In this way conversion manifests its most splendid and fascinating face: It is not a simple moral decision to rectify our conduct of life, but it is a decision of faith, which involves us wholly in profound communion with the living and concrete person of Jesus.

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To be converted and to believe in the Gospel are not two different things or in some way closely related, but rather, they express the same reality. Conversion is the total "yes" of the one who gives his own existence to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ, who first offered himself to man as Way, Truth and Life, as the one who frees and saves him. This is precisely the meaning of the first words with which, according to the Evangelist Mark, Jesus began the preaching of the "Gospel of God." "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).

"Repent and believe in the Gospel" is not only at the beginning of the Christian life, but accompanies all its steps, [this call] remains, renewing itself, and spreads, branching out in all its expressions. Every day is a favorable moment of grace, because each day invites us to give ourselves to Jesus, to have confidence in him, to remain in him, to share his style of life, to learn from him true love, to follow him in daily fulfilling of the will of the Father, the only great law of life -- every day, even when difficulties and toil, exhaustion and falls are not lacking, even when we are tempted to abandon the following of Christ and to shut ourselves in ourselves, in our egoism, without realizing the need we have to open to the love of God in Christ, to live the same logic of justice and love.

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In the recent Message for Lent, I wished to remind that "humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from 'what is mine,' to give me gratuitously 'what is his.' This happens especially in the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thanks to Christ's action, we may enter into the 'greatest' justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognizes itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected" (L'Osservatore Romano, Feb. 5, 2010, p. 8).

The favorable moment and grace of Lent shows us the very spiritual meaning also through the old formula: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return," which the priest pronounces when he places ashes on our head. We are thus remitted to the beginning of human history, when the Lord said to Adam after the original fault: "By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).

Here, the Word of God reminds us of our frailty, including our death, which is the extreme expression of our frailty. In face of the innate fear of the end, and even more so in the context of a culture that in so many ways tends to censure the reality and the human experience of dying, the Lenten liturgy on one hand reminds us of death, inviting us to realism and to wisdom but, on the other hand, it drives us above all to accept and live the unexpected novelty that the Christian faith liberates us from the reality of death itself.

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Man is dust and to dust he shall return, but he is precious dust in God's eyes, because God created man for immortality. Thus the liturgical formula "Remember man that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return" finds the fullness of its meaning in reference to the new Adam, Christ. The Lord Jesus also wished to freely share with every man the lot of frailty, in particular through his death on the cross; but precisely this death, full of his love for the Father and for humanity, has been the way for the glorious resurrection, through which Christ has become the source of a grace given to those who believe in him and are made participants of divine life itself. This life which will have no end is already present in the earthly phase of our existence, but will be led to fulfillment after the "resurrection of the flesh." The little gesture of the imposition of ashes reveals to us the singular richness of its meaning: It is an invitation to live the time of Lent as a more conscious and more intense immersion in the Paschal Mystery of Christ, in his death and resurrection, through participation in the Eucharist and in the life of charity, which stems from the Eucharist and in which it finds its fulfillment. With the imposition of ashes we renew our commitment to follow Jesus, to allow ourselves to be transformed by his Paschal Mystery, to overcome evil and do good, to have the "old man" in us die, the one linked to sin, and to have the "new man" be born, transformed by the grace of God.

Dear friends! While we hasten to undertake the austere Lenten journey, we want to invoke with particular confidence the protection and help of the Virgin Mary. May she, the first believer in Christ, be the one who accompanies us in these 40 days of intense prayer and sincere penance, to be able to celebrate, purified and completely renewed in mind and spirit, the great mystery of her Son's Easter.

Good Lent to all!

Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one's own need - the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. So we understand how faith is altogether different from a natural, good-feeling, obvious fact: humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from "what is mine," to give me gratuitously "what is His." This happens especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thanks to Christ's action, we may enter into the "greatest" justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognises itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected. Strengthened by this very experience, the Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies, where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love.

Pope Benedict XVI
Lenten Message 2010

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?

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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 soul,

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 soul!

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 mind,

in the shape of a passionate thought in the flesh,

showing me sweet things

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 Unity,

take from me the heavy yoke of sin,

and in Your compassion,

grant me tears of compunction.

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 repents.


(KATAVASIA)  A 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 glorified.

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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This page is a archive of entries in the Lent & Holy Week category from February 2010.

Lent & Holy Week: April 2009 is the previous archive.

Lent & Holy Week: March 2010 is the next archive.

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