Pre-Lenten Preparation

February 3, 2015

By the Waters of Babylon - Arthur HackerBefore we enter the forty days of fasting and penance preceding the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, our Holy Mother Church gives us a kind heads up in the 1962 liturgical books. We’re moving into a time of spiritual renovation that every Lent should be, and as with all important things in our lives, it’s no good to wake up the first Sunday of Lent and decide off the cuff that we’re giving up chocolate in all its myriad forms, or TV, or whatever else most easily comes to mind. Such carelessness is bound to lead to failure and a wasted season.

So then, the Church gives us three Sundays which we call the season of Septuagesima prior to Ash Wednesday to get ourselves ready. This has been part of the liturgical cycle in various ways for over 1000 years and we began this time for 2015 last Sunday. In the liturgy itself we now switch from green to the color of violet which symbolizes penance and mortification. The Gloria and the Alleluias are suppressed except for special feasts.

Dom Guéranger, OSB, in his massive work, The Liturgical Year, positions this season for us this way:

We are sojourners on the earth; we are exiles and captives in Babylon, that city which plots our ruin. If we love our country, if we long to return to it, we must be proof against the lying allurements of this strange land, and refuse the cup she proffers us, and with which she maddens so many of our fellow captives. She invites us to join in her feasts and her songs; but we must unstring our harps, and hang them on the willows that grow on her river’s bank, till the signal be given for our return to Jerusalem.

She will ask us to sing to her the melodies of our dear Sion: but how shall we, who are so far from home, have heart to “sing the song of the Lord in a strange land”? No, there must be no sign that we are content to be in bondage or we shall deserve to be slaves forever.

These are the sentiments wherewith the Church would inspire us during the penitential season which we are now beginning. She wishes us to reflect on the dangers that beset us; dangers which arise from ourselves and from creatures. During the rest of the year she loves to hear us chant the song of heaven, the sweet Alleluia; but now she bids us close our lips to this word of joy, because we are in Babylon. We are pilgrims absent from our Lord: let us keep our glad hymn for the day of His return. We are sinners, and have but too often held fellowship with the world of God’s enemies; let us become purified by repentance, for it is written that “praise is unseemly in the mouth of a sinner.”

We might well consider this season as one in which we tune ourselves up to run in that race St. Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 9: 24-27, the race being most immediately Lent of this year. We heard this in Sunday’s Epistle reading. Now is a good time to ask the Holy Spirit to show us what would be most beneficial to us personally as we look at the three ways we can keep Lent.

 1. What penances/mortifications will help me most to advance in virtue?

2. What spiritual practices should I fine-tune or add, or what habits should I build to open myself more to God who loves me and wants me united with Him in all things of my life?

3. What kind of almsgiving best fits my life situation? Although almsgiving is typically monetary and we should not ignore our widow’s mites, it can also be prayers, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and other things we can do to go the extra mile in regard to our neighbor.

If you need convenience in your spiritual growth for Lent or are looking for spiritual direction in general, Divine Intimacy Radio could well be for you. Their 24 minute podcast on preparing for Lent is excellent and you can listen to it any time. This is a new venture from Dan Burke of Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction and I’m looking forward to more discussions on the Divine Intimacy meditations.

Image: By the Waters of Babylon, c. 1888, Arthur Hacker (1858-1919).

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

This post linked to Sunday Snippets.

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Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 spirituality

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