Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

First Sunday of Lent

21 February A.D. 2010

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Lenten Observance

Psalm 90-Translated from the Old Latin

“Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
And when He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry.”[1]

    I mentioned on Ash Wednesday that while Lent is a time of preparation for Easter, it is much more than that.  It will be valuable to us only if we see it as a time of our own personal sanctification; a time of drawing closer to God.  It is a preparation for union with God here on earth, and ultimately with Him in heaven.  And that, of course, is an event for which we should always be prepared, “for we know not the day nor the hour” of our departure from this life.

    This personal nature of Lent can be seen if examine the texts of the Masses which are offered during the season.  Only occasionally do we celebrate the saints' feasts during Lent—there is a specific Lenten Mass for each and every day of the season.  Very often these Masses stress mankind's sinfulness, unworthiness, and abject dependence on God—concepts which often make modern people feel a bit uncomfortable.

    If we were to go back to the early middle ages, when many of these Masses were composed, we moderns might be surprised by the emphasis we would see placed on the forgiveness of personal sins during Lent:  On Ash Wednesday, those who had committed serious sins during the past year would make their Confession to the priest—sometimes publicly! —and receive a penance to be practiced for the entire 40 days.  And, they might lay aside their fine clothes, and dress in sack-cloth until Holy Thursday—for it was only then, right at the end of Lent, that they were given absolution, received back into the Church, and given Holy Communion.

    Even those who were not public penitents, often wore Lenten dress.  Everybody fasted.  And, in many places, abstinence excluded not only meat and poultry from the diet, but also fish, eggs, cheese, and oil.  Parties, and even weddings, were simply out of the question.  Those who were not public sinners came to daily Mass, acknowledging their unworthiness, and asking God's graces for their improvement.  They prayed also for the Faithful Departed, for Lent has always been a time of prayer for the dead.

    And, certainly, they prayed for those who were doing public penance, who were not even allowed into the church.  When Holy Thursday finally came, it was a joyous day indeed.  Not only did they celebrate the anniversary of the First Mass and the Blessed Sacrament—but they could also say that now they had "regained their brethren," whose sins were forgiven (often by the bishop), and who returned with them to the altar rail to receive the Body and Christ.  The unity of the Mystical Body of Christ was restored and publicly demonstrated.

    In some ways we are more fortunate.  Certainly, there is a great advantage in giving sinners absolution immediately, so that they can spend the season in the state of grace; and growing in that grace.  Likewise, we can say the same for the ability to receive Holy Communion frequently at this time.  And, I guess most of us would have a great deal of difficulty with the idea of going around unwashed, and in dirty rags for the forty-odd days of Lent.

    But there is also a danger of taking Lent too lightly.  With the reduction of the exterior trappings of Lent—the fasting, the sack-cloth, the public penance, and so forth, we are also more liable to do away with the interior aspects of Lent.  We need to make a conscious effort not to do that.

    We must recognize that we all are sinners—that we need God's forgiveness and Sanctifying graces—through Sacramental Confession.  Particularly if we are unfortunate enough to be in the state of serious sin—but even if we are not.  It is sufficient matter for Confession to be sorry for some sin committed in the past and already forgiven.  Frequent reception of the Sacrament is an excellent way of keeping from sin.

    We must make that conscious effort to draw closer to God through regular prayer, meditation, attendance at Mass and the other devotions of Lent.

    We have to put aside the parties, and entertainments, and celebrations of the world.  All the more time for spiritual reading, and the additional prayer which we should be doing.

    We need to follow carefully at least the minimal practices of fast and abstinence prescribed by the Church in our time.  This is necessary, as I have been telling you, to gain control of our wills, to strengthen ourselves against temptation, and to remove some of the obstacles we have placed between God and ourselves.

    And let's not forget to pray for one another, and for those who should be doing penance but who have just altogether ignored their obligation.  And, don't forget to pray for the dead—who have a right to our prayers; at least in charity.

    Let's try to re-build some of that medieval enthusiasm for prayer and penance:  As Saint Paul tells us today,

“Now is the acceptable time,
Now is the day of salvation.”[2]

    Now is the time to start making a good Lent; to prepare not only for Easter, but for eternity.


[1]   Matthew iv: 1,

[2]   Epistle: 2 Corinthians vi: 1-10,





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