EXPAND YOUR READING!!

"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Sunday, 18 February 2018

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT 2018

  


Image result for noah and his ark






     



First Sunday of Lent, Year B, Belmont, 2018 
According to the book of Genesis, we are all the children of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. And also, according to Genesis, we are all the children of Noah and his wife (who although nameless in Scripture, was given the name ‘Naamah’ in Jewish tradition). The famous flood had, of course, destroyed the rest of humanity, except for Noah and his three sons, together with their respective wives. Our second reading from the first letter of St Peter, therefore, got its maths right when it reliably informed us about “that ark which saved only a small group of eight people ‘by water’” (1 P 3:20). 

Image result for blessing of the paschal font

St Peter, in his first letter, is also quick to point out the evident parallel between the “water” of the flood and our Baptism: “that water is a type of the baptism which saves you now” (1 P 3:21). In the ‘Blessing of Baptismal Water’ at the Easter Vigil (when there are in fact people to be baptised), the priest prays: “O God who by the outpouring of the flood foreshadowed regeneration, so that from the mystery of one and the same element of water would come an end to vice and a beginning of virtue”. Water drowns and destroys, as well as “saves” and restores. 


Christ too was baptised; the story of which you will, of course, find in the Gospels. If you have a look at St Luke’s Gospel, you discover that the account is immediately followed by (no, not the Temptation in the Wilderness, as in St Mark’s Gospel, which we read today, but by) the genealogy of Jesus (his family tree, in other words). Christ, like us, was a descendant of both Adam and Noah and, in his case, via Noah’s son, Shem. The genealogy in the Gospel of Luke is as such sandwiched between the story of the Baptism and that of the Temptation.
Christ shared in our humanity, as well as the divinity; and just as the genealogy concludes by stating that he is the “son of Adam, son of God” (Lk 3:38), so in the Baptism (which all sinful sons of Adam are surely in need of, though Christ himself was without sin) we hear the divine voice proclaiming: “You are my Son” (Lk 3:22). There is indeed a universal call to salvation; and therefore a universal call to Baptism, for us to be saved from sin and share in Christ’s divine sonship. If we return to St Mark’s Gospel and turn to the very end instead of the beginning, we read of Christ’s parting commission to his disciples: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved” (Mk 16:15-16a). We have already mentioned that “only a small group of eight people” (1 P 3:20) were saved by the great flood. And yet in that “small group” was in effect prefigured “the whole world”, since the three sons of Noah represented the three known continents: Shem Asia; Ham Africa; and Japheth Europe.


The parallel between the story of the flood in Genesis and of Jesus in the Gospel continues in regard to another reference to a number: “The Spirit [at his Baptism, who descended as it happened “like a dove” (Mk 1:10), thus recalling the dove sent by Noah over the flood (cf. Gn 8:8)] drove him out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan” (Mk 1:12-13a); “The flood lasted forty days on earth” (Gn 7:17a). Although it seems that neither Noah nor any of the others in the ark were similarly tempted, they were, like our Lord in the wilderness, “with the wild beasts” (Mk 1:13b): that ark crammed full with every kind of bird and animal.       
Just as we can draw a soteriological conclusion from this comparison between the flood and Christ’s Baptism and subsequent Temptation (‘soteriological’ by the way signifying matters related to salvation); so we, perhaps rather unsurprisingly, can do the same as regards ecological matters. In the minds of many, however, the saving of the planet has more resonance than the saving of souls, yet both are symbolised by Noah’s ark, “which saved only a small group of eight people ‘by water’” (1 P 3:20), as well as saving, or rather conserving, every species of animal from extinction. Similarly, our Lord offers us salvation through the waters of his Baptism, while also seeming to show his concern, and clearly not disdain, for wildlife by his being “with the wild beasts” (Mk 1:13b).
see "The Cross and the Cosmos" below.
As we now prepare for Easter and the renewing of our own Baptismal promises, let us resolve, like God himself (through the waters of the flood, which prefigure those of our Baptism), to put “an end to vice” (Blessing of Baptismal Water), to the wickedness on earth (cf. Gn 6:5). And also like him, to make that promise (which we heard right at the end of today’s first reading): “never again […] to destroy all things of flesh” (Gn 9:15). We have reached a stage in our history when our destruction of the planet has become, to some degree, critical (Pope Francis specifically drawing our attention and conscience to this in recent years). It stands to reason that this destruction is in no sense constructive; as it is our faith that planet earth is part of God’s creation (a small, though obviously very important, part in the scale of things).        
Like our Lord, we have to wrestle with temptation, with Satan and the wickedness of sin in the wilderness which is life on earth; yet, at the same time, we want to live harmoniously “with the wild beasts” (Mk 1:13b) who also inhabit this wilderness. This time of Lent is marked by that call to repentance: “Repent, and believe the Good News” (Mk 1:15b), the concluding words of today’s Gospel, which we might also have heard being pronounced while we were being daubed with ashes last Wednesday. Let us “repent” then of what we have done or indeed failed to do, firstly, to our neighbours and, secondly, to our planet; yet let us “believe the Good News” of our salvation and of our being not simply the children of either Adam or Noah but rather of our being adopted children of “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Mt 6:9). 

THE CROSS AND THE COSMOS
by Father Stephen Freeman (Orthodox)
see: The Cross and the Cosmos


It seems worthwhile to continue with thoughts on the instrument of our salvation. In a short work, The Beginning of the Day, (I believe it was a special printing and is not generally available), Met. Kallistos Ware notes this about the Cross and its connection with the whole of creation:

…[The] created order in its entirety participated in the Savior’s Passion: the earth shook, the rocks were split, the whole cosmos shuddered (Matt. 27:51). In the words of St. Ephrem the Syrian, ‘humans were silent, so the stones cried out’. As the old English poem The Dream of the Rood expresses it, ‘All creation wept.’ This all embracing participation in the death of God incarnate is memorably expressed in the Praises or Enkomia sung in the evening of Good Friday or early in the morning on Holy Saturday:

‘Come, and with the whole creation let us offer a funeral hymn to the Creator.’

‘The whole earth quaked with fear, O lord, and the Daystar hid its rays, when Thy great light was hidden in the earth.’

‘The sun and moon grew dark together, O Savior, like faithful servants clothed in black robes of mourning.’

‘O hills and valleys’, exclaims the Holy Virgin, ‘the multitude of mankind and all creation, weep and lament with me, the Mother of God.’

Most remarkably of all in what is truly an amazing statement, it is affirmed: ‘the whole creation was altered by Thy Passion: for all things suffered with Thee, knowing, O Lord, that Thou holdest all in unity.’

Do we reflect sufficiently, I wonder, upon the environmental impliations of our Lord’s Incarnation, upon the way in which Jesus is ecologically inclusive, embedded in the soil like us, containing within His humanity what has been termed ‘the whole evolving earth story’?

Do we allow properly for the fact that our Savior came to redeem, not only the human race, but the fullness of creation? Do we keep constantly in mind that we are not saved from but with the world?

In such a fashion St. Paul can say that the “world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” Frequently our own thoughts about the things of God are too restricted, too limited. The Cross is diminished to an execution role in a very narrow atonement theory, the Incarnation reduced to a stage entrance. These great mysteries of God, manifest among us, are the gate and ladder, the entrance into the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of God’s entrance into our world. This is true not only of the Cross of Golgotha, but ultimately in every Cross that participates in its reality. A believer’s making of the sign of the cross, with faith, participates in this reality (and so the demons flee).

Christ has promised that we would have life “more abundant.” By this is not meant that we will be rich or have more material things (for these are not the true life). But the Kingdom is an endless abundance that enters our heart and world, shattering the narrowness of opaque minds and opening to us the fullness of life in Christ.

The Reality presented to us in the Cross (as with all things of God) is never comprehended in rational theory. It pushes us beyond the limits of our own poorly defined rationality and towards the greater rationality of the Truth of things. As noted by St. Gregory of Nyssa, “only wonder grasps anything.” To approach the Cross with wonder is to begin the journey that it makes possible. The life that we refer to as salvation belongs to this world of wonder – despite the banalities of much Christian conversation on the topic.


It is not surprising that silence is among the most important tools in our spiritual life. O, sweet wonder!
THE CANTICLE OF THE SUN
by St Francis of Assisi
Image result for the canticle of the sun
Verses from St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun were translated as a children’s hymn by the English hymn writer William H. Draper (1855—1933).Canticle of the Sun - St. Francis' poem immortalized in song
Usually sung to the melody composed by Peter von Brachel of Cologne, Germany, in 1623 with the harmony provided by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1906:

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

Refrain: O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!
Refrain

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.
Refrain

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.
Refrain

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!
Refrain

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.
Refrain

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

Refrain
Canticle of the Sun

St Francis of Assisi, the Reluctant Saint

Friday, 16 February 2018

CHRIST OF THE MARGINS: THE IMPORTANCE OF LOOKING FOR CHRIST AT THE PERIPHARY OF OUR VISION


 icon of Christ on the periphery of life
to gain all others on the periphery
There were “bad times” under the Romans too. But Jesus came. He did not spend the years of His life complaining or denouncing the “bad times.” He cut it short. In a very simple way. By building Christianity. He did not end up indicting or accusing anybody. He saved. He did not indict the world. He saved the world.   (Charles Peguy, Veronique)

Pope Francis is misinterpreted especially by two lots of people, the "world" with its secular media that interprets his words according to its own presuppositions and his "conservative" opponents who identify Christ's moral teaching with the code of Canon Law and who are only too willing to accept the secular interpretation of his words as this makes it easier to refute him.   Of course, there are also Catholics and other Christians who have discarded Catholic Tradition and accept modern, liberal, secular morality hook, line and sinker: they are delighted to believe that Pope Francis is one of them.

  Instead, we find a traditional Catholic who wants to reorientate the Church's focus of attention from itself to the peripheries, from the orderly and smooth running of its institutions to the disorderly or badly ordered world of sin and to those who are in various degrees entrapped in it, either as victims or as participants.  

The Church is, by its nature, a missionary Church, as the last four popes have taught, and all its members are called to be missionaries.   This is especially so now that the secular, liberal elite is taking over.  In the past, the Church was the moral legislator for western society, and Canon Law reflects that role.  Now the rules must be adapted to its main missionary role.

Pope Francis has said:


There is a tension between the center and the periphery…. We must get out of ourselves and go toward the periphery. We must avoid the spiritual disease of the Church that can become self-referential: when this happens, the Church itself becomes sick.

“A Church which “goes forth” is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way. At times we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it.
Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37)”
(Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 46, 49)
When Frs Luke, Paul and I arrived at the small town of Tambogrande in northern Peru to take over the parish and to found a Benedictine monastery in August 1981, the people met us with grateful delight.   Communion time at Mass was highly spectacular as people crowded in front of the altar to receive the host.   They jostled and pushed "like hungry dogs", as Graham Greene put it in "The Power and the Glory", and many whispered urgently,"A mi, Padre, a mi!" as though we were about to pass them by.


It came as a bit of a shock that very many of them were not married in church, that some were in more than one relationship and that one of the most pious, a daily Mass-goer, was mistress of a married doctor.  We learnt that the Spanish colonized Peru before the Council of Trent made it mandatory that all couples should marry in church, whether they were rich or poor and that the Council of Trent was too far away for it to make much difference to the illiterate peasants, however pious they may have been.  We also learnt that, while civil marriage and simple co-habiting did not require the families to put on a large fiesta, religious marriage does, and people simply can't afford it.  It was also a sad fact that the average parish priest in the old days had simply been content to give the sacraments and made no real attempt to teach them.

Father Luke, Paul and myself had no special theory about the sacraments and marriage other than the ordinary teaching of the Church.   For us, the question was simply this: should their obvious need and desire for Christ be met first by what we had come there to give them, leaving it to Christ himself to sort things out, or should we first meet them with Canon Law?  There was no time to theorise: they were there in front of us, whispering, "A mi, Padre, a mi!"   The question was:  Do we now, at this moment, give them Jesus or the Law?

Father Paul, as the parish priest, went to consult the Archbishop who, like us, was no liberal.  He asked him about second relationships, especially when this has taken place after a previous marriage in church.   The archbishop told him that it was his opinion that most first marriages in Peru do not fulfil the conditions necessary for a valid marriage and that the processes for annulment are both too complicated and too expensive for the majority of people.  Very often, the second marriage is the one that has the natural ingredients essential for validity.  Under the circumstances, we should give second marriages the benefit of the doubt.  Church discipline does not fit the real situation.

As the years went on, with the introduction of catechesis in which ordinary Catholic doctrine was taught and as we organised marriages in the village fiestas when the whole village was celebrating anyway, which made them very much cheaper for the families and with the training of catechists who instructed people in preparation for the sacraments, Tambogrande became, little by little, an ordinary Catholic parish in which the ordinary rules made sense.

The truth is that Pope Francis' controversial views are neither right wing nor left wing: they are the product of a normal Hispanic American pastoral experience.

According to the last four popes, the Church must be missionary, must reach out and not be content until all have the chance to enjoy a living experience of and relationship with God in Christ.   In the vocabulary of Pope Francis, we must reach out to the peripheries.  Our theology, our language and our rules must be adapted to this end.

Firstly, we must identify those on the periphery.  From the point of view of our centre who is Jesus Christ, that includes everybody, including ourselves, but some are more on the periphery than others.  Here it is worth quoting Archimandrite Aemilianos of Simonpetra, a monastery on Mount Athos:


"Think of it: Jesus Christ, the Life of all, the Creator of the universe, the only One ever to have been born without sin, was all alone, left in a common grave, outside of Jerusalem. He was alone even among his closest friends, since they never really understood Him, and thus He asked them: Do you not perceive or understand? (Mk. 8.17) Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me? (Jn. 14.9). At the time of His passion, His isolation became acute. In the garden of agony, when His sweat became like great drops of blood, His disciples drifted off into sleep (Lk. 22.44). One by one His friends deserted Him. He stood alone before the judgement seat of Pilate, alone on the cross, alone in the grave: everywhere alone. He went alone into Hell. Alone, always alone. Why? So that you might learn that you have to be alone with God in order to become His dwelling place.

Then the Lord will say, at the Last Judgement, to those on His left, whom He will send away into Gehenna, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels: “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me” (cf. Mt 25:33-41). Do you see? He’s a stranger, somebody who’s alone, who’s ignored: I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was alone in prison and you did not visit me (cf. Mt 25.42-43)....For many of us, this can be a rude awakening: after beholding Christ in our dreams, we find it annoying to open our eyes on a world filled with other people. Immediately we say: “I wasn’t looking for you I want Christ,” forgetting that the stranger, the poor man, the prisoner, the sinner, and especially my enemy - especially the person who seeks to harm me - is Christ for me."(Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, The Way of the Spirit, pp. 244-245, 254)

If the Church is to have an open door to those on the periphery, it must be clear in itself that it cannot be one of the forces that puts people on the periphery.

Firstly, it is not there to judge people. As the fathers of the desert used to say, the One who condemns adultery also condemns judging others:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matt.7, 1...)
We must be clear that our function is to show others that God loves them unconditionally, right where they are and that this is revealed by Christ on the Cross.   The famous "Who am I to judge?" of Pope Francis about homosexuals must be interpreted in that context.  When Jesus asked the woman taken in adultery if there was anyone condemning her and she replied, "No one" and he said, "Neither do I condemn you," no one suggested he was going soft on adultery: condemnation was not his role and neither is it ours.

Thirdly, by getting to know them, we must discern and discover what God is already doing in their marginalised souls, for you can be sure that the Good Shepherd is already there, working away.  Anyone who has come to know the true devotion, the genuine love, even the heroic self-sacrifice present in many objectively invalidly married families will know what I mean.  And you will come across invalidly married couples who stick together by some miracle of grace and families which, if there were to be a separation as Canon Law obliges them to do, would bring about another human tragedy.  Often these are marriages that should be valid if annulment were a realistic option, but this is not always the case.  Of course, there are also invalid marriages which should end with separation.   We are talking about marriages, but there are many other moral situations which require the same treatment: we must discern what they are, avoid judging the people involved as far as possible, and discern what God is already doing within the situation and collaborate with Him: after all, He is the boss.

The object of the whole exercise is to invite people through the open door into the Church and, where this is not possible, to allow them to experience the love of God through us and through the Church.

By going out to the periphery, the Church and we as members of it grow in our understanding of life in general and of Christian life in particular.  Only by moving around and seeing from different angles, by looking at what the Good Shepherd is doing among the poor and those whose contact with him is weak or non-existent can we put our own understanding of the Christian economy into its proper context.  Pope Francis says:


I am convinced of one thing: the great changes in history were realized when reality was seen not from the centre but rather from the periphery. It is a hermeneutical question: reality is understood only if it is looked at from the periphery, and not when our viewpoint is equidistant from everything. Truly to understand reality we need to move away from the central position of calmness and peacefulness and direct ourselves to the peripheral areas. Being at the periphery helps to see and to understand better, to analyze reality more correctly, to shun centralism and ideological approaches….

This is really very important to me: the need to become acquainted with reality by experience, to spend time walking on the periphery in order really to become acquainted with the reality and life-experiences of people. If this does not happen we then run the risk of being abstract ideologists or fundamentalists, which is not healthy.



Patristic theology bears the mark of the pastoral experience of bishops and other ministers in the towns as well as the deep spiritual experience of monks in the deserts.  Scholastic theology became of value when friars following the humble Christ of Scripture crossed over to the margins where people were becoming all the more estranged from the Church while studying Aristotle and other Greek philosophy.   The friars like St Thomas Aquinas studied their theology, often on their knees, within the context of this alienated scholastic movement and drew the two movements into one.  We the Church must grow in understanding of the Church by rooting it in the pastoral contact with people in the peripheries.

When after Vatican II the Church has directed its attention from its centre in Rome to what Christ is doing in the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, we have made discoveries about our own Church in ways that revolutionise our understanding of it while remaining in continuity with our past.   We find our unity with other Christians in a living contact with Christ.   We will come to realise that the whole of Catholicism is implicit in that personal union with Christ, ready to become visible as we, patiently accepting our differences, we grow in ecclesial love.  Our Catholicism is not static: it grows as we cross frontiers in charity and seek Christ in the other.  Pope Francis writes:
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”.
 Ten Things To Know About Pope Francis (George Weigel - Acton Institute)





A very good video of the inclusive truth of Orthodoxy/Catholicism  is by Father John Behr:
The Shocking Truth About Orthodoxy
Pope Francis could not put this better.  He says that when the Holy Spirit is around, diversity is no longer a threat but a means of growth as we reach out for a God-given Synthesis in and through our personal contact with Christ.   In fact, for Pope Francis Catholicism is a synthesis of opposites, opposites because human beings think in different ways and in different contexts, having different experiences and different cultures and customs, and synthesis because, for all that, we are being formed by the Spirit to have one heart and one mind in Christ.   Whether we speak of the Incarnation or the Trinity, God's omnipotence and human freedom, collegiality and primacy, or anything else, Catholic teaching is a synthesis of opposites in tension with one another.  It is not "either...or" but "both...and".  In this process, there are always "conservatives" who resist the new synthesis in favour of ones already reached, and there are "progressives" who adopt a new position that seems to attack the status quo.  Then there is the Church that, by accepting both, gradually forms the synthesis.  This process can only happen when ecclesial charity, the created sign of the Holy Spirit's active presence, prevails.  Ecumenism is the process of synthesis when ecclesial charity breaks down and schism has resulted.   Authentic ecumenism can only properly take place within the context of repentance and the restoration of ecclesial love.  

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

ASH WEDNESDAY AND LENT




Why are we putting ourselves through this every year‚ only to fall and to fumble like novices learning a new skill?

One thought I would like to share with you is that‚ for me at least‚ fasting is like a truthful mirror of my own weaknesses. Every year‚ confronted with giving up the comfort of my pampered life‚ I have a hard time letting it go. The discipline of fasting underlines my faults and awakens my awareness of the true state of my becoming in Christ.

We are called to grow “unto a perfect man‚ unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1’)‚ but how can I grow if I do not know my current stature‚ if I am not made aware of where I stand and what I need to grow into? The discipline of Great Lent heightens our spiritual mindfulness and allows us‚ as we struggle with its different aspects‚ to learn‚ through imperfect experiences and failings‚ what we need to work on to achieve the perfection we are called to attain: “Be ye therefore perfect‚ even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) my source: Gladsome Light




my source: Aleteia


“Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.” – St. Ephrem of Syria

Other than professional athletes genuflecting and pointing to the sky after a touchdown, when is the last time you associated manhood with prayer? Honestly, the only time most men pray is when they are in imminent danger or in desperate need of some kind. The rest of the time, they leave praying to the grandmas who attend daily mass.

Yet, this is entirely the wrong attitude. Courageous knights of ages past were not ashamed to kneel in front of the altar, or to dedicate themselves to the service of Jesus and Mary in prayer (check out this post for some knightly spirituality). Real men pray. Let’s talk about why.


Importance

Prayer is the breath of the spiritual life. Without it, your soul suffocates and dies. That’s why Jesus and the great saints of the Church were so urgent in their calls for us to pray always and everywhere. St. Paul commanded us to “pray without ceasing.” Jesus taught us to “pray always and not lose heart.”

In fact, prayer is so important that St. Alphonsus Ligori says, “Whoever prays is certainly saved. He who does not is certainly damned.” Let that sink in.

Prayer is so important because, whether or not we realize it, we are essentially beggars before God. Everything we need to be virtuous men has to be given to us. We will never be holy without grace, and there is no other way to obtain grace than through prayer.

Do you need courage? Ask for it. Do you need humility? Ask for it. Do you need to be pure in a world filled with temptation? Ask for it. Are you trying to overcome an explosive temper? Ask for patience. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive— it’s that simple.

Our Lent will be completely wasted if we aren’t praying. Fasting and almsgiving will simply become sources of pride if we aren’t approaching them prayerfully. No matter what else you are planning to do for Lent, prayer should be first on the list.


How to Pray

Maybe you want to build prayer into your Lent as well as your daily life, but you don’t know how. It seems so hard to sit still for even 15 minutes and pray. Even if you manage it, you’re not always sure what to say.

I understand because I struggle with the same problems. Prayer, like anything that is worth doing, is hard. Nevertheless, here are some tips based on the writings of the saints that will help us to pray.

1. Keep it simple - Prayer is paradoxical in that the more you say, the more difficult it is to mean what you say. Keep your prayer simple, and mean every word. The Our Father, the perfect prayer, is seven simple petitions. Many of the early monks would even pray by repeating one word or phrase, such as the name of Jesus. If you spent 5 minutes saying ”Jesus” over and over with love, it would be far more profitable than endlessly reading prayers from a prayer book coldly and mindlessly.

2. Just do it - The saints tell us that the best way to learn to pray is by praying. A distance runner doesn’t begin running ultramarathons over night. He begins with shorter distances and builds over time. So too with prayer. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like you are accomplishing anything, or how many times you try to pray and fail. It doesn’t matter how many distractions you have to fight. We have to keep showing up, day after day or we will never learn to pray. Simply asking like the disciples, “Teach us to pray,” is a great prayer to start with.

3. Intentional time - Monastics through the centuries have had specific hours set aside for prayer. While most of us probably can’t pray seven times a day like they do, we should build prayer into our daily routine. If we don’t, it’s never going to happen. I recommend praying 3 times a day: morning, noon, and night. In the morning, offer your day to God and ask for the graces you need. At noon, renew this offering of your day and ask for help to persevere in virtue. At night, review your day and confess your sins. Ask for forgiveness and give thanks for the blessings you have received. Again, if you aren’t intentional about prayer, it is never going to happen.

4. Acknowledge the need - A lot of us don’t pray because we are self-satisfied. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, we think we have everything we need, and we view prayer as a favor we pay to God. That’s why we don’t want to do it. In reality, though, we are like the blind beggar Bartimaeus in the Gospels, completely helpless and needy. Like him, we should recognize our helplessness, and call out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” We should examine ourselves and spend some time recognizing our own weaknesses. Not only will this make us more humble, it will inspire us to call for help— which is one of the best ways to begin praying.

5. Patience – If you’re expecting to become a great mystic like St. John of the Cross overnight, you’re delusional. Even if you are praying for something specific, like a virtue or a temporal need, God hardly ever answers us immediately. If he did, we’d start to think of him as a heavenly vending machine, dispensing our every desire when we press the right buttons. No, God wants us to be patient and persevere in prayer. Like the widow in Scripture who harassed the judge until he granted her desire, harass God in a good way, asking for what you need until you get it.

Conclusion

Volumes have been written about prayer, and I’m just scratching the surface in this post. The point is, prayer isn’t optional. You’re going to waste your Lent— and your life— if you aren’t praying. Get serious about it and make it a part of your daily life starting this Lent. It’s the way to virtue, holiness, and communion with our Heavenly Father.

What are your greatest struggles in prayer? How are you planning to pray more this Lent?
Ash Wednesday
Bishop Barron on Lent and the Temptations

Courtesy of The Catholic Gentleman

Please click on THE REALITY OF HELL an  Orthodox contribution


The Holy Forty Day Fast


By Sergei V. Bulgakov


The most ancient Christian writers unanimously testify that the Holy Forty Day Fast was established by the apostles in imitation of the forty-day fast of Moses (Exodus 34), Elijah (3 Kings 19), and mainly by the example of Jesus Christ fasting for forty days (Mt. 4: 2). Ancient Christians have observed the time of the Holy Forty Days as the season of the commemoration of the Suffering of the Savior on the Cross, anticipating the days of this commemoration, so that, strongly imitating His self-renunciation and His self-denial, these ascetical feats would show the living participation and love on the part of the Savior, who suffers for the world, and that before all this to be morally cleansed for the time of the solemn commemoration of the passion of Christ and His glorious resurrection. The very name of the Holy Forty Days is met rather frequently in the most ancient written monuments with the indication of the purpose of its establishment. "Do not neglect the Forty Days", wrote St. Ignatius the God-bearer in his epistle to Philippians: "for it establishes the imitation of the life in Christ". St. Ambrose of Milan spoke even more clearly: "The Lord has blessed us with the Forty Day Fast. He created it for your salvation to teach us to fast not in words only, but also by example". Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa assert that the Holy Forty Day Fast existed everywhere during their time. According to the Apostolic Canons (Canon 69) the Holy Forty Day Fast is considered obligatory and its observance is protected by strict punishment. St. Hippolytus (3rd century) serves as the indisputable witness of the antiquity of this fast and the paschal cycle traced to his see, containing the instruction from antiquity of the custom to stop the Holy Forty Days Fast on Sundays. On the basis of all traditions of the Holy Apostles, our Holy Church, on behalf of its representatives, fathers and teachers, always considered the Holy Forty Day Fast an apostolic establishment. Yet the Blessed Jerome on behalf of all Christians in his time said: "We fast for the Forty Days according to the apostolic tradition". St. Cyril of Alexandria repeatedly reminds us in his writings, that it is necessary to piously observe the Holy Forty Day Fast, according to the apostolic and gospel traditions. The Holy Forty Day Fast, continuing for forty days, was not observed however in the ancient Church at one and the same time, because that depends on the non-uniform number of the days of the fast and the days on which it was decided. Beginning from the Third, even from the Second Century, the Holy Fathers gave clear testimonies that the Holy Forty Day Fast depended upon forty days. St. Irenaeus wrote that Christians fasted for 40 days. Origen also confirms this in the Third Century. In the Fourth Century the eastern churches established the present order of the Holy Forty Day Fast from Monday after Cheese Fare Sunday until Great Saturday, understanding that this number includes Passion Week in the fast. The Holy Fathers: Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, Blessed Augustine, etc., all agree that the Holy Forty Days is a fast for forty days, and all see it as the common establishment of the Holy Church. The fast of the Holy Forty Days is called Great, not only because of the number of days but also because of its special significance and its value for the Orthodox Christian.

"The more days of the fast", teaches the blessed Augustine, "the better the healing. The longer the abstention, the more bountiful is the salvation. God, the Physician of our souls, established the proper time for the pious to give praise, for the sinners to pray, for the ones to seek rest, for others to ask forgiveness. The time of the Holy Forty Days is proper, neither too short for giving praise, nor too long for seeking mercy. Holy and saving is the course of the Holy Forty Days by which the sinner is led through repentance in charity, and the pious to rest. During its days the Deity is mainly propitious, needs are filled, piety is rewarded".

According to the teaching of St. Asterius of Amasea, the Holy Forty Day Fast is "a teacher of temperance, the mother of virtue, the educator of the children of God, the guide through chaos, the serenity of souls, the staff of life, lasting and serene peace. Its strictness and importance calms the passions, dampens anger and fury, cools and calms all kinds of excitement, and slakes the appetite". "The holy fathers", teaches St. John Chrysostom, "appointed forty days of fast in order that during these days the people, having been carefully cleansed through prayer, fasting and confession of sins, will approach holy communion with a pure conscience".

According to the teaching of the Ven. Dorotheus, "God has given these holy days (the Forty Holy Days) so that those who will try, with attention and wise humility, to take care of themselves and repent their sins, will be cleansed of the sins which were made during the whole year. Then their souls will be released from the burden, and in such a way cleansed will attain the holy day of the Resurrection and without condemnation to receive the Holy Mysteries, having become a new person through repentance in this holy fast".

The Divine Services of Great Lent, on the one hand, presents to us the continuous prompting to fast and repent, and on the other hand, describes also the very condition of the soul, repenting and crying over sins. This general content of the Great Lent Divine Services also fully impacts his external image.

The Holy Church lays aside any pomp in the Divine Service. Before all she does not perform the most solemn Christian Divine Service, that is, the full Liturgy on the days of Great Lent, excluding Saturdays and Sundays. Instead she celebrates the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesdays and Fridays (Laod. 19, Trullo 52). The Holy Church changes the structure of the other church services in accordance with time. She almost stops singing as an expression of the joyful condition of spirit, and gives preference to reading. She also changes the choice of the readings themselves according to the season. Thus, the Holy Church deprives the faithful of the joyful proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, and offers readings from the Old Testament word of God. She uses the Psalter especially widely, which mainly induces a prayerful and repentant spirit. The entire Psalter is read twice each week. The terrible speech of the Prophet Isaiah is also read, accusing the lawless and encouraging the hope of repentance. The pericopes in which the creation and the fall of man as described in the book of Genesis are read, and on the one hand, the awful displays of the wrath of God on the impious are described, and on the other hand, His mercy on the righteous. Finally, lessons from the book of Proverbs are read, where the Wisdom of God calls us to true enlightenment, teaches us about heavenly wisdom. In all the church services the Holy Church leads us to the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, that God take away from us the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk, and that He grant us the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. Also frequently repeated is the prayer of repentance of David: "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me", and the appeal of the reasonable thief: "Remember me, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy heavenly Kingdom". All Divine Services of Great Lent are done quietly, slowly and with the greatest reverence. Few candles are lit in the candle stands, the Royal Doors are rarely opened, the bells are seldom and minimally rung, those present in the temple are called to prostrate to the ground frequently, and to kneel often. By the appearance, the setting and the external character of the Divine Service, the Holy Church teaches us that there should not be a place for joy and pomp, but only humility and sorrow, and lamentation for our sins in the internal temple of our repenting soul. Finally, the Holy Church connects the daily church services, the third, the sixth, and the ninth hours with Vespers to indicate the length of time for the daily fast. Generally, the Holy Church with parental care wisely directs all of us to observe strict abstention from food, to devote all time "of the soul-pleasing Holy Forty Days" and the cares of our salvation to God, to be released whenever possible from the usual earthly cares and occupations, everyday efforts and entertainments, to give a rather larger part than ever of our time for self-examination, moral self-correction, divine thoughts and to the Divine Services of the church. That we use this time, as the most convenient one for the cleansing of all sins, laying as a heavy burden on our souls and darkening the Divine image in us, through the Sacrament of Repentance, and then, already with a cleansed conscience, unite ourselves with the Lord, the Source of all joy, happiness and eternal salvation, through the Sacrament of Holy Communion. That, finally, having worthily "completed the soul-pleasing Holy Forty Day Fast", in peace with God, with our neighbor and with our conscience, brightly and joyfully, with a pure soul and an open heart, wewill meet "the Holy Week" of the Passion of Christ and "the light of His Resurrection".

The paradigm of the observance of the Holy Forty Day Fast was determined from of old. Ancient Christians observed this lent with special strictness, abstaining even from the taste of water until the 9th hour (3 p.m. in the afternoon). They ate after the ninth hour of the day, using bread and vegetables and abstaining from meat and wine, and also cheese and eggs, even on Saturdays and Sundays. The exceptions to this order were only supposed in extreme need.

The strict keeping of the fast weakened on Saturdays and Sundays and on the feast of the Annunciation (when it came in the Holy Forty Day Fast) on which it is necessary to serve a full Liturgy, but it was not weakened when the feasts in honor of the saints fell on the weekdays of the Holy Forty Day Fast, likewise when the same feasts were celebrated on Saturdays and Sundays. The present Ustav (Rubrics, Typicon) commands:

"The strong may persevere fasting up to Friday". "On the first day of the first week (Monday) it is by any means not necessary to eat, and the same way in the second. On Wednesday after the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the meal is placed, and we eat warm bread, and for food warm vegetables. Warm water with honey is given also. To keep the fast on the two days of the first week, the weaker eat bread and kvass after Vespers on Tuesday. The same applies to the elderly." The Holy Mountain Typicon commands not to eat food at all on the first day. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday one may eat one liter of bread and water, and nothing else, unless salt is needed with the bread. On Saturdays and Sundays olive oil and wine is permitted". In the other weeks, except for Saturdays and Sundays, we eat dry foods (xerophagy). Wine and olive oil is authorized on February 24, March 9, and on the day of the reading of the Great Canon on Great Thursday. "We do not eat any fish during all the Holy Forty Day Fast, except for the feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos and Palm (Flower-bearing) Sunday". On Lazarus Saturday it is permitted to eat caviar, but not fish.

THE MYSTERY OF LENT

by Dom Gueranger


We may be sure, that a season, so sacred as this of Lent, is rich in mysteries. The Church has made it a time of recollection and penance, in preparation for the greatest of all her Feasts; she would, therefore, bring into it everything that could excite the faith of her children, and encourage them to go through the arduous work of atonement for their sins. During Septuagesima, we had the number Seventy, which reminded us of those seventy years’ captivity in Babylon, after which, God’s chosen people, being purified from idolatry, was to return to Jerusalem and celebrate the Pasch. It is the number Forty that the Church now brings before us: - a number, as Saint Jerome observes, which denotes punishment and affliction [In Ezechiel, cap. xxix].

Let us remember the forty days and forty nights of the Deluge (Gen. vii. 12), sent by God in his anger, when he repented that he had made man, and destroyed the whole human race, with the exception of one family. Let us consider how the Hebrew people, in punishment for their ingratitude, wandered forty years in the desert, before they were permitted to enter the Promised Land [Num. xiv. 33]. Let us listen to our God commanding the Prophet Ezechiel to lie forty days on his right side, as a figure of the siege, which was to bring destruction on Jerusalem [Ezech. iv. 6].

There are two, in the Old Testament, who represent, in their own persons, the two manifestations of God: Moses, who typifies the Law; and Elias, who is the figure of the Prophets. Both of these are permitted to approach God, - the first on Sinai [Exod. xxiv. 18], the second on Horeb [3 Kings, xix. 8], - but both of them have to prepare for the great favour by an expiatory fast of forty days.

With these mysterious facts before us, we can understand why it was, that the Son of God, having become Man for our salvation, and wishing to subject himself to the pain of fasting, chose the number of Forty Days. The institution of Lent is thus brought before us with everything that can impress the mind with its solemn character, and with its power of appeasing God and purifying our souls. Let us, there fore, look beyond the little world which surrounds us, and see how the whole Christian universe is, at this very time, offering this Forty Days’ penance as a sacrifice of propitiation to the offended Majesty of God; and let us hope, that, as in the case of the Ninivites, he will mercifully accept this year’s offering of our atonement, and pardon us our sins.

The number of our days of Lent is, then, a holy mystery: let us, now, learn from the Liturgy, in what light the Church views her Children during these Forty Days. She considers them as an immense army, fighting, day and night, against their Spiritual enemies. We remember how, on Ash Wednesday, she calls Lent a Christian Warefare. Yes, - in order that we may have that newness of life, which will make us worthy to sing once more our Alleluia, - we must conquer our three enemies the devil, the flesh, and the world. We are fellow combatants with our Jesus, for He, too, submits to the triple temptation, suggested to him by Satan in person. Therefore, we must have on our armour, and watch unceasingly. And whereas it is of the utmost importance that our hearts be spirited and brave, - the Church gives us a war-song of heaven’s own making, which can fire even cowards with hope of victory and confidence in God’s help: it is the Ninetieth Psalm [Ps. Qui habitat in adjutorio, in the Office of Compline]. She inserts the whole of it in the Mass of the First Sunday of Lent, and, every day, introduces several of its verses in the Ferial Office.

She there tells us to rely on the protection, wherewith our Heavenly Father covers us, as with a shield [Scuto circumdabit to veritas ejus. Office of None.]; to hope under the shelter of his wings [Et sub pennis ejus sperabis. Sext.]; to have confidence in him, for that he will deliver us from the snare of the hunter [Ipse liberavit me de laqueo venantium. Tierce.], who had robbed us of the holy liberty of the children of God; to rely upon the succour of the Holy Angels, who are our Brothers, to whom our Lord hath given charge that they keep us in all our ways [Angelis suis mandavit de te, ut custodiant te in omnibus viis tuis. Lauds and Vespers.], and who, when our Jesus permitted Satan to tempt him, were the adoring witnesses of his combat, and approached him, after his victory, proffering to him their service and homage. Let us get well into us these sentiments wherewith the Church would have us be inspired; and, during our six weeks’ campaign, let us often repeat this admirable Canticle, which so fully describes what the Soldiers of Christ should be and feel in this season of the great spiritual warfare.

But the Church is not satisfied with thus animating us to the contest with our enemies; - she would also have our minds engrossed with thoughts of deepest import; and for this end, she puts before us three great subjects, which she will gradually unfold to us between this and the great Easter Solemnity. Let us be all attention to these soul-stirring and instructive lessons.

And firstly, there is the conspiracy of the Jews against our Redeemer. It will be brought before us in its whole history, from its first formation to its final consummation on the great Friday, when we shall behold the Son of God hanging on the Wood of the Cross. The infamous workings of the synagogue will be brought before us so regularly, that we shall be able to follow the plot in all its details. We shall be inflamed with love for the august Victim, whose meekness, wisdom, and dignity, bespeak a God. The divine drama, which began in the cave of Bethlehem, is to close on Calvary; we may assist at it, by meditating on the passages of the Gospel read to us, by the Church, during these days of Lent.

The second of the subjects offered to us, for our instruction, requires that we should remember how the Feast of Easter is to be the day of new birth for our Catechumens; and how, in the early ages of the Church, Lent was the immediate and solemn preparation given to the candidates for Baptism. The holy Liturgy of the present season retains much of the instruction she used to give to the Catechumens; and as we listen to her magnificent Lessons from both the Old and the New Testament, whereby she completed their initiation, we ought to think with gratitude on how we were not required to wait years before being made Children of God, but were mercifully admitted to Baptism, even in our Infancy. We shall be led to pray for those new Catechumens, who this very year, in far distant countries, are receiving instructions from their zealous Missioners, and are looking forward, as did the postulants of the primitive Church, to that grand Feast of our Saviour’s victory over Death, when they are to be cleansed in the Waters of Baptism and receive from the contact a flew being, - regeneration.

Thirdly, we must remember how, formerly, the public Penitents, who had been separated, on Ash Wednesday, from the assembly of the Faithful, were the object of the Church’s maternal solicitude during the whole Forty Days of Lent, and were to be admitted to Reconciliation on Maundy Thursday, if their repentance were such as to merit this public forgiveness. We shall have the admirable course of instructions, which were originally designed for these Penitents, and which the Liturgy, faithful as she ever is to such traditions, still retains for our sakes. As we read these sublime passages of the Scripture, we shall naturally think upon our own sins, and on what easy terms they were pardoned us; whereas, had we lived in other times, we should have probably been put through the ordeal of a public and severe penance. This will excite us to fervour, for we shall remember, that, whatever changes the indulgence of the Church may lead her to make in her discipline, the justice of our God is ever the same. We shall find in all this an additional motive for offering to his Divine Majesty the sacrifice of a contrite heart, and we shall go through our penances with that cheerful eagerness, which the conviction of our deserving much severer ones always brings with it.

In order to keep up the character of mournfulness and austerity which is so well-suited to Lent, the Church, for many centuries, admitted very few Feasts into this portion of her year, inasmuch as there is always joy, where there is even a spiritual Feast. In the 4th century, we have the Council of Laodicea forbidding, in its fifty-first canon, the keeping a Feast or commemoration of any Saint, during Lent, excepting on the Saturdays or Sundays [Labbe, Concil., tom. i.]. The Greek Church rigidly maintained this point of Lenten Discipline; nor was it till many centuries after the Council of Laodicea that she made an exception for the 25th of March, on which day she now keeps the Feast of our Lady’s Annunciation.

The Church of Rome maintained this same discipline, at least in principle; but she admitted the Feast of the Annunciation at a very early period, and somewhat later, the Feast of the Apostle St. Matthias, on the 24th of February. During the last few centuries, she has admitted several other Feasts into that portion of her general Calendar which coincides with Lent; still, she observes a certain restriction, out of respect for the ancient practice.

The reason of the Church of Rome being less severe on this point of excluding the Saints’ Feasts during Lent, is, that the Christians of the West have never looked upon the celebration of a Feast as incompatible with fasting; the Greeks, on the contrary, believe that the two are irreconcilable, and as a consequence of this principle, never observe Saturday as a fasting-day, because they always keep it as a Solemnity, though they make Holy Saturday an exception, and fast upon it. For the same reason, they do not fast upon the Annunciation.

This strange idea gave rise, in or about the 7th century, to a custom which is peculiar to the Greek Church. It is called the Mass of the Presanctified, that is to say, consecrated in a previous Sacrifice. On each Sunday of Lent, the Priest consecrates six Hosts, one of which he receives in that Mass; but the remaining five are reserved for a simple Communion, which is made on each of the five following days, without the Holy Sacrifice being offered. The Latin Church practises this rite only once in the year, that is, on Good Friday, and this in commemoration of a sublime mystery, which we will explain in its proper place.

This custom of the Greek Church was evidently suggested by the 49th Canon of the Council of Laodicea, which forbids the offering the Bread of sacrifice during Lent, excepting on the Saturdays and Sundays [Labbe, Concil., tom. i.]. The Greeks, some centuries later on, concluded from this Canon, that the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice was incompatible with fasting; and we learn from the Controversy they had, in the 9th century, with the Legate Humbert [Centra Nicetam., tom. iv.], that the Mass of the Presanctified, (which has no other authority to rest on save a Canon of the famous Council in Trullo [Can. 52. Labbe, Concil. tom. vi.] held in 692,) was justified by the Greeks on this absurd plea, - that the Communion of the Body and Blood of our Lord broke the Lenten Fast.

The Greeks celebrate this rite in the evening, after Vespers, and the Priest alone communicates, as is done now in the Roman Liturgy on Good Friday. But for many centuries, they have made an exception for the Annunciation; they interrupt the Lenten fast on this Feast, they celebrate Mass, and the Faithful are allowed to receive Holy Communion.

The Canon of the Council of Laodicea was probably never received in the Western Church. If the suspension of the Holy Sacrifice during Lent was ever practised in Rome, it was only on the Thursdays; and even that custom was abandoned in the 8th century, as we learn from Anastasius the Librarian, who tells us that Pope St. Gregory the Second, desiring to complete the Roman Sacramentary, added Masses for the Thursdays of the first five weeks of Lent [Anastas. In Gregorio II]. It is difficult to assign the reason of this interruption of the Mass on Thursdays in the Roman Church, or of the like custom observed by the Church of Milan on the Fridays of Lent. The explanations we have found in different authors are not satisfactory. As far as Milan is concerned, we are inclined to think, that not satisfied with the mere adoption of the Roman usage of not celebrating Mass on Good Friday, the Ambrosian Church extended the rite to all the Fridays of Lent.

After thus briefly alluding to these details, we must close our present Chapter by a few words on the holy rites, which are now observed, during Lent, in our Western Churches. We have explained several of these in our “Septuagesima.” [See their explanation in the volume for Septuagesima]. The suspension of the Alleluia; the purple vestments; the laying aside the deacon’s Dalmatic, and the subdeacon’s Tunic; the omission of the two joyful canticles, - the Gloria in excelsis, and the Te Deum; the substitution of the mournful Tract for the Alleluia verse in the Mass; the Benedicamus Domino instead of the Ite, Missa est; the additional Prayer said over the people after the Post-communion Collects on Ferial Days ; the saying the Vesper Office before mid-day, excepting on the Sundays; - all these are familiar to our readers. We have only now to mention, in addition, the genuflections prescribed for the conclusion of all the Hours of the Divine Office on Ferias, and the rubric which bids the Choir to kneel, on those same Days, during the Canon of the Mass.

There were other ceremonies peculiar to the season of Lent, which were observed in the Churches of the West, but which have now, for many centuries, fallen into general disuse; we say general, because they are still partially kept up in some places. Of these rites, the most imposing was that of putting up a large veil between the Choir and the Altar, so that neither clergy nor people could look upon the Holy Mysteries celebrated within the Sanctuary. This veil - which was called the Curtain, and, generally speaking, was of a purple colour - was a symbol of the penance to which the sinner ought to subject himself, in order to merit the sight of that Divine Majesty, before whose face he had committed so many outrages. It signified, moreover, the humiliations endured by our Redeemer, who was a stumbling-block to the proud Synagogue. But, as a veil that is suddenly drawn aside, these humiliations were to give way, and be changed into the glories of the Resurrection [Honorius of Autun. Gemma animae. Lib. iii. cap. lxvi.]. Among other places where this rite is still observed, we may mention the Metropolitan Church of Paris, Notre Dame.

It was the custom also, in many Churches, to veil the Crucifix and the Statues of the Saints as soon as Lent began; in order to excite the Faithful to a livelier sense of penance, they were deprived of the consolation which the sight of these holy Images always brings to the soul. But this custom, which is still retained in some places, was less general than the more expressive one used in the Roman Church, and which we will explain in our next volume, - we mean the veiling the Crucifix and Statues only in Passion Time.

We learn from the Ceremonials of the Middle Ages, that, during Lent, and particularly on the Wednesdays and Fridays, processions used frequently to be made from one Church to another. In Monasteries, these Processions were made in the Cloister, and barefooted [Martène. De antiquis Eccles ritibus. Tom. iii. cap. xviii.]. This custom was suggested by the practice of Rome, where there is a Station for every day of Lent, and which, for many centuries, began by a procession to the Stational Church.

Lastly, - the Church has always been in the habit of adding to her prayers during the Season of Lent. Her present discipline is, that, on Ferias, in Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, (which are not exempted by a custom to the contrary,) the following additions are to be made to the Canonical Hours: on Mondays, the Office of the Dead; on Wednesday, the Gradual Psalms; and on Fridays, the Penitential Psalms. In some Churches, during the Middle-Ages, the whole Psaltery was added each week of Lent to the usual Office [Martène. De antiquis Eccles ritibus. Tom. iii. cap. xviii.].


Ash Wednesday 2018


HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS


Our Br Augustine of Belmont is
one of the servers




This afternoon –Ash Wednesday, day of the beginning of Lent – an assembly of prayer took place in the form of the Roman “Stations,” presided over by Pope Francis.
At 4:30 pm, in the church of Saint Anselm all”Aventino, a moment of prayer was held followed by a penitential procession to the Basilica of Saint Sabina. Taking part in the procession were Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Benedictine monks of Saint Anselm, Dominican Fathers of Saint Sabina and some faithful. At the end of the procession, Pope Francis presided over the celebration of the Eucharist in the Basilica of Saint Sabina, with the rite of the blessing and imposition of ashes.
The following is a translation of the homily that the Pope delivered after the proclamation of the Holy Gospel.

* * *

The season of Lent is a favourable time to remedy the dissonant chords of our Christian life and to receive the ever new, joyful and hope-filled proclamation of the Lord’s Passover. The Church in her maternal wisdom invites us to pay special attention to anything that could dampen or even corrode our believing heart.

We are subject to numerous temptations. Each of us knows the difficulties we have to face. And it is sad to note that, when faced with the ever-varying circumstances of our daily lives, there are voices raised that take advantage of pain and uncertainty; the only thing they aim to do is sow distrust. If the fruit of faith is charity – as Mother Teresa often used to say – then the fruit of distrust is apathy and resignation. Distrust, apathy and resignation: these are demons that deaden and paralyze the soul of a believing people.

Lent is the ideal time to unmask these and other temptations, to allow our hearts to beat once more in tune with the vibrant heart of Jesus. The whole of the Lenten season is imbued with this conviction, which we could say is echoed by three words offered to us in order to rekindle the heart of the believer: pause, see and return.

Pause a little, leave behind the unrest and commotion that fill the soul with bitter feelings which never get us anywhere. Pause from this compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, with friends, with children, with grandparents, and time as a gift… time with God.

Pause for a little while, refrain from the need to show off and be seen by all, to continually appear on the “noticeboard” that makes us forget the value of intimacy and recollection.

Pause for a little while, refrain from haughty looks, from fleeting and pejorative comments that arise from forgetting tenderness, compassion and reverence for the encounter with others, particularly those who are vulnerable, hurt and even immersed in sin and error.

Pause for a little while, refrain from the urge to want to control everything, know everything, destroy everything; this comes from overlooking gratitude for the gift of life and all the good we receive.

Pause for a little while, refrain from the deafening noise that weakens and confuses our hearing, that makes us forget the fruitful and creative power of silence.

Pause for a little while, refrain from the attitude which promotes sterile and unproductive thoughts that arise from isolation and self-pity, and that cause us to forget going out to encounter others to share their burdens and suffering.

Pause for a little while, refrain from the emptiness of everything that is instantaneous, momentary and fleeting, that deprives us of our roots, our ties, of the value of continuity and the awareness of our ongoing journey.

Pause in order to look and contemplate!

See the gestures that prevent the extinguishing of charity, that keep the flame of faith and hope alive. Look at faces alive with God’s tenderness and goodness working in our midst.

See the face of our families who continue striving, day by day, with great effort, in order to move forward in life, and who, despite many concerns and much hardship, are committed to making their homes a school of love.

See the faces of our children and young people filled with yearning for the future and hope, filled with “tomorrows” and opportunities that demand dedication and protection. Living shoots of love and life that always open up a path in the midst of our selfish and meagre calculations.

See our elderly whose faces are marked by the passage of time, faces that reveal the living memory of our people. Faces that reflect God’s wisdom at work.

See the faces of our sick people and the many who take care of them; faces which in their vulnerability and service remind us that the value of each person can never be reduced to a question of calculation or utility.

See the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair their errors and mistakes, and who from their misfortune and suffering fight to transform their situations and move forward.

See and contemplate the face of Crucified Love, who today from the cross continues to bring us hope, his hand held out to those who feel crucified, who experience in their lives the burden of failure, disappointment and heartbreak.

See and contemplate the real face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception. For everyone? Yes, for everyone. To see his face is an invitation filled with hope for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and resignation. The face that invites us to cry out: “The Kingdom of God is possible!”.

Pause, see and return. Return to the house of your Father. Return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy (cf. Eph 2:4), who awaits you.

Return without fear, for this is the favourable time to come home, to the home of my Father and your Father (cf. Jn 20:17). It is the time for allowing one’s heart to be touched… Persisting on the path of evil only gives rise to disappointment and sadness. True life is something quite distinct and our heart indeed knows this. God does not tire, nor will he tire, of holding out his hand (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 19).

Return without fear, to join in the celebration of those who are forgiven.

Return without fear, to experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God. Let the Lord heal the wounds of sin and fulfil the prophecy made to our fathers: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek 36: 26).

Pause, see and return!


[Original text: Italian] [Vatican-provided text of the Pope’s prepared homily]

HOMILY BY ABBOT PAUL


            “Let your hearts be broken, not your garments. Turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, ready to relent.”  These words of the Prophet Joel remind us that Lent is the time when we turn to God with broken hearts and ask him in his mercy to heal them. ”Now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation,” writes St Paul. In fact, God is so merciful and loving that Paul can say, “For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.” Incredibly, salvation doesn’t demand great sacrifices on our part. All God wants is that we open our hearts to him, so that he can do the rest. Salvation is God’s gift, not something we earn by our own efforts. Holiness is the fruit of faith and trust in God, allowing his grace to work in us.



            This is why Jesus warns us today to do nothing that attracts the attention of others. Don’t give arms, don’t pray, don’t fast like hypocrites, who are seen by others and praised for their good works. No, we are to do everything in secret; only God should know what we’re doing, as we seek to follow Christ this Lent. Although it is an ancient tradition of the Roman Church to place ashes on our heads today, the keeping of Lent is something intimate between God and each one of us. Above all, unless we undergo a change of heart, a real conversion, the whole exercise is futile. Yet, the simple giving up of a little thing can be a constant reminder of the essential giving up we should be aiming for, the giving up of our own will.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Thy will be done,” and that is the goal of Lent.



            There are, of course, many penances and good works to choose from, but, in fact, God is calling us to accept, in a spirit of humility, the penance he has chosen for us. It could be something to do with our character or personal weaknesses, just learning to accept ourselves. It could be trying to accept others, someone we live with or a neighbour, being patient with their foibles and idiosyncrasies. As we grow older, it could be accepting diminishment, sickness or pain, loss of memory or agility. Inevitably, these come to all of us, so Lent can be about facing up to the realities of life with patience and good humour, knowing that beyond the Cross lies the glory of the Resurrection and the light of Easter.



            As we receive the ashes this morning, we will hear the words, “Remember that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” It would be good to reflect on these words of Scripture. We are dust, dust and ashes, and yet dust that is precious to God and has been given new life through the Spirit of Jesus. We are in his hands. May his will be done. Amen


The Bright Sadness of Lent
Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 7:39 AM
James M. Kushiner




For Christians observing the penitential season of Lent, a “bright sadness” can be found in the knowledge and experience of the confident joy that is theirs whenever they are blessed with the grace of repentance, even the “gift of tears,” from the Holy Spirit. The sadness comes from knowing how far we still fall short of the glory of God and the recognition of the sinfulness that infects so much of our daily activity in what may seem to be small ways: absence of humility, self-centered responses, judging others, continual satisfaction of carnal appetites that go beyond physical needs, pretty much unbroken forgetfulness of God, except when we need something from Him, complaining that negates any small amount of thanksgiving we manage to remember to give. “Pray without ceasing,” writes the Apostle Paul, and “Give thanks in everything.” Count others as better than yourselves. Love one another. Do good to your enemies. Forgive all. These are the marks of the Christian. We do fall short, so repentance is in order pretty much for the rest of our lives.
But the brightness comes in realizing that we, though sick, are under the care of the Great Physician who is merciful beyond measure and loves us more than we know. Taking our medicine, seeking His solicitude, grace, and healing balm, should be a joy to us. If not, it’s only because we haven’t yet caught up with the fact that our true life is hidden in Christ, and not with the passing things of this world. If the world has a stranglehold on our affections, we cannot love Christ as we ought. We will not be grateful as we ought. We will not be joyful as we ought. And so we will be something other than what He created us to be. As dirty mirrors, we will not reflect the light of Christ, but rather more darkness of our own making.
Lent, then, or anytime of repentance, is the walk back from the pigsties of our personal “far countries,” where we feed on mere food and pleasure, in diminishing returns, to the house of the Father, who always, always, seems to meet us more than halfway down the road.
Here is one text that reflects more brightness than sadness, from the Matins (morning prayer) of the Orthodox Church on the Monday of the First Week of Lent:
Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage. So, clothed in raiment of light, let us hasten to the Holy Resurrection on the third day, that shines upon the world with the glory of eternal life.



Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow celebrates Lent


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