Pastor's Corner 030214

posted Mar 25, 2014, 12:58 PM by Music Director

The Olympics, and hopefully the harsh weather, are over.  Still, “Old Man Winter” has a few weeks left on his frosty bones, so we may not be out of the woods just yet.  I really enjoyed the Winter Games and hope you did, too.  Team USA did quite well, earning the second most amounts of medals including some that were never won by an American before, or hadn’t been in a long, long time.  Unfortunately there were some events that our athletes were projected to win and didn’t, but that’s why the games are played, right?  Congratulations to all the athletes and to host nation and medal-winner Russia.

This Wednesday we will embark on the holy season of Lent, a most special time of the year.  Just as spring is seen as nature’s rebirth, Lent is a sort of spiritual spring, a time of spiritual rebirth.  It was originally developed as a 40-day retreat for adult catechumens who were preparing to join the Church through the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) at Easter, which explains the timing of the season.  Later, it was extended to all of the Church as a way of preparing for the annual celebration of the greatest of all feasts, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

That Lent coincides with the natural season of spring in the northern hemispheres (where Christianity originated) explains its name, derived from the old English word “lengten” which means “spring.”  Arriving so late this year (do you know why?) makes the coincidence of Lent and Spring all the more special.  Because of their association, the liturgical season borrows heavily from the natural one.  Liturgical vesture, for example, takes on the hues of late winter and spring, when daylight grows longer and the evening sky is filled with glorious shades of violet and rose.  Violet was also the color the church in Rome chose to symbolize penance, one of Lent’s major characteristics, as we prepare to celebrate the Resurrection (and our own!) through penance for the remission of our sins.

               Although Lent should not be seen as a gloomy, mournful time, it is a time of quiet introspection to help us deepen the process of conversion to the way of Christ; to become more aware of our weaknesses and commit ourselves to a greater willingness to work at overcoming them.  As a way of expressing this liturgically, you can expect during the Masses of Lent things like extended periods of silence; the use of the Confiteor or the second form of the Penitential Rite; singing of the invocation of Christ’s mercy in their original Greek or English:  Kyrie eleison (KEER-ee-ay ay-LAY-ee-sown, “Lord have mercy”) and Christe (CREE-stay) eleison (“Christ, have mercy”); and an invitation to kneel at that time.  These simple practices can intensify our awareness of our dependence on God’s mercy, deepen our spiritual connection to Christ, and unite ourselves with one another and our ancestors-in-faith. 

It is customary for Christians to fast during the 40 days of Lent in imitation of Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert following His baptism.  (It is from this event that the Lenten season derives its length.)  Fasting may include denying ourselves a daily meal or certain favorite food or activity, or “fasting” from a particular bad habit.  Instead of or in addition to acts of denial, we could choose something more proactive like more frequent personal prayer; attendance at daily Mass and/or devotions such as Stations of the Cross or Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; increased giving to charities or your weekly tithe to the parish.  We could offer some special service to the needy.  Of course, reception of the Sacrament of Penance is something that should be a part of the Lenten observance for all of us. 

You may be unaware that technically we are relieved from our Lenten sacrifices on the Sundays of Lent, because every Sunday is a day of celebrating our Lord’s victory over sin and death.  (Ancient Christians often referred to Sunday as “little Easter.”)  Only by eliminating Sundays and subtracting the Triduum days of Holy Week (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) do we arrive at 40 days of Lent!  Nevertheless, most choose to carry whatever type of fast they’ve chosen from Ash Wednesday until Easter, if only for continuity’s sake.  However, ALL CATHOLICS from age 14-69, except those with a serious medical condition, are expected to abstain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent, and to eat ONLY ONE FULL MEAL on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Please be sure to consult our schedule of Masses and Services for Ash Wednesday.  Though it is NOT a holy day of obligation, it is nevertheless a (mysteriously) very popular day when most if not all the faithful come to church; and that’s a very good thing.  By focusing on our need for continual conversion, Lent brings us closer to our loving Savior and to one another.  So here’s a hearty wish for all of us to enjoy a very holy and healthy Lenten spring!

 

In His Love,

Fr. Mike

 

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