The Mystery of Lent

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The Mystery of Lent
from the Liturgical Year, 1870

Lent is filled with mystery. During the Septuagesima Time the number seventy recalls to our minds the seventy years of the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, where, after having purified themselves from their sins by penance, they returned again to their country and to their city of Jerusalem, then they celebrated their Easter. Now the holy Church, our Mother, brings before our minds the severe and mysterious number forty, that number which, as St Jerome says, is always filled with self-denial and with penance (In Ezech., c. xxix). When the race became corrupt, God wiped out the sin of man by the rain of forty days and forty nights upon the world, but after forty days Noah opened a window in the ark and found the water gone from the earth. When the Hebrews were called from the land of Egypt for forty years they fasted on manna, wandering in the desert, before they came to the promised land. When Moses went up the Mount of Sinai, for forty days and nights he fasted from food before he received the law graven on tablets of stone. When Elias came near to God, on Horeb, for forty days and nights he fasted (St. Augustine Sermon). Thus these two, the greatest men of old, whom the hand of the Lord hath raised up to do His mighty will, Moses on Mount Sinai, Elias on Mount Horeb, what do they figure but the law and the prophecy of the Old Testament pointing to the fast of forty days and nights of our Lord in the desert? Like shadowy forms they prefigured the Son of God, Who first established Lent when the Christians, His disciples, fast, following the example of our Master, when they keep the Lenten Services of the Church. Continue reading

INSTRUCTION ON ASH WEDNESDAY

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INSTRUCTION ON ASH WEDNESDAY

The Church’s Year
By Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine

Why is this day thus named?

Because on this day the Church blesses ashes, and places them on the heads of her faithful children, saying: “Remember man, thou art dust, and unto dust thou shaft return.”

Why is this done?

St. Charles Borromeo gives us the following reasons for this practice: that the faithful may be moved to sincere humility of heart; that the heavenly blessing may descend upon them, by which they, being really penitent, will weep with their whole soul for their sins, remembering how earth was cursed because of sin, and that we have all to return to dust; that strength to do true penance may be given the body, and that our soul may be endowed with divine grace to persevere in penance. Continue reading

Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday
Rev. James Luke Meagher, 1883

The fast of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts till Easter Sunday. During this time there are forty-six days, but as we do not fast on the six Sundays falling in this time, the fast lasts for forty days. For that reason it is called the forty days of Lent. In the Latin language of the Church it is called the Quadragesima, that is, forty. St. Peter, the first Pope, instituted the forty days of Lent. During the forty-six days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, we are to spend the time in fasting and in penance for our sins, building up the temple of the Lord within our hearts, after having come forth from the Babylon of this world by the rites and the services of the Septuagesima season. And as of old we read that the Jews, after having been delivered from their captivity in Babylon, spent forty-six years in building their temple in place of the grand edifice raised by Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians, thus must we rebuild the temple of the Holy Ghost, built by God at the moment of our baptism, but destroyed by the sins of the past year. Again in the Old Testament the tenth part of all the substance of the Jews was given to the Lord (Exod. xxli. 29). Thus we must give him the tenth part of our time while on this earth. For forty days we fast, but taking out the Sundays of Lent, when there is no fast, it leaves thirty-six days, nearly the tenth part of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. According to Pope Gregory from the first Sunday of Lent to Easter, there are six weeks, making forty-two days, and when we take from Lent the six Sundays during which we do not fast, we have left thirty-six days, about the tenth part of the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. Continue reading