Category Archives: Lent

Tenebrae

-“Tenebrae Factae Sunt”, There was darkness, is the eighth responsorio for Holy Week and the fifth responsorio of Matins for Good Friday.

-from https://www.sistersofcarmel.com/tenebrae.php?mc_cid=3ff5951ea0&mc_eid=c72ad7923a

“All that You have done to us, O Lord, You have done in true judgment, because we have sinned against You, and have not obeyed Your commandments. But give glory to Your name, and deal with us according to the multitude of Your mercy.”
– Daniel, 3:31, from the Mass of Thursday in Passion Week

“Tenebrae”, means shadows, and is the name given to the service of Matins and Lauds belonging to the last three days of Holy Week. It differs, in many things, from the Office of the rest of the year. All is sad and mournful, as though it were a funeral service; nothing could more emphatically express the grief that now weighs down the heart of our holy Mother the Church. Throughout all the Office of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, she forbids herself the use of those formulas of joy and hope wherewith, on all other days, she begins her praise of God. Nothing is left but what is essential to the form of the Divine Office: psalms, lessons and chants expressive of grief. The tone of the whole Office is most noticeably mournful: the lessons taken from the Lamentations of Jeremias, the omission of the Gloria Patri, of the Te Deum, and of blessings etc., so the darkness of these services seems to have been designedly chosen to mark the Church’s desolation. The lessons from Jeremias in the first Nocturn, those from the Commentaries of St. Augustine upon the Psalms in the second, and those from the Epistles of St. Paul in the third remain now as when we first hear of them in the eighth century.

The name “Tenebrae” has been given because this Office is celebrated in the hours of darkness, formerly in the evening or just after midnight, now the early morning hours. There is an impressive ceremony, peculiar to this Office, which tends to perpetuate its name. There is placed in the sanctuary, near the altar, a large triangular candlestick holding fifteen candles. At the end of each psalm or canticle, one of these fifteen candles is extinguished, but the one which is placed at the top of the triangle is left lighted. During the singing of the Benedictus (the Canticle of Zachary at the end of Lauds), six other candles on the altar are also put out. Then the master of ceremonies takes the lighted candle from the triangle and holds it upon the altar while the choir repeats the antiphon after the canticle, after which she hides it behind the altar during the recitation of the Christus antiphon and final prayer. As soon as this prayer is finished, a noise is made with the seats of the stalls in the choir, which continues until the candle is brought from behind the altar, and shows, by its light, that the Office of Tenebrae is over.

Let us now learn the meaning of these ceremonies. The glory of the Son of God was obscured and, so to say, eclipsed, by the ignominies He endured during His Passion. He, the Light of the world, powerful in word and work, Who but a few days ago was proclaimed King by the citizens of Jerusalem, is now robbed of all his honors. He is, says Isaias, the Man of sorrows, a leper (Isaias 53:3,4). He is, says the royal prophet, a worm of the earth, and no man (Psalm 21:7). He is, as He says of himself, an object of shame even to his own disciples, for they are all scandalized in Him (Mark 14:27) and abandon Him; yea, even Peter protests that he never knew Him. This desertion on the part of His apostles and disciples is expressed by the candles being extinguished, one after the other, not only on the triangle, but on the altar itself. But Jesus, our Light, though despised and hidden, is not extinguished. This is signified by the candle which is momentarily placed on the altar; it symbolizes our Redeemer suffering and dying on Calvary. In order to express His burial, the candle is hidden behind the altar; its light disappears. A confused noise is heard in the house of God, where all is now darkness. This noise and gloom express the convulsions of nature when Jesus expired on the cross: the earth shook, the rocks were split, the dead came forth from their tombs. But the candle suddenly reappears; its light is as fair as ever. The noise is hushed, and homage is paid to the Conqueror of death.”

– Excerpted from the revered Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger, the Catholic Encyclopedia and other sources

Love & Resurrection,
Matthew

Lent: meatless burgers, avoiding hyper-scrupulosity & loophole-seeking

Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.
Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.
Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.
Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.
Asperges me hyssopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.
Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.
Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.
Ne proiicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me.
Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me.
Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.
Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam.
Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.
Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.
Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.
Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem.
Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes, et holocausta: tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.

Have mercy on me, God, have mercy,  in accord with Your merciful love;
in Your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.
Thoroughly wash away my guilt;
and from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my transgressions;
my sin is always before me.
Against You, You alone have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in Your eyes
So that You are just in Your word,
and without reproach in Your judgment.
Behold, I was born in guilt,
in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire true sincerity;
and secretly You teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
You will let me hear gladness and joy;
the bones you have crushed will rejoice.
Turn away Your face from my sins;
blot out all my iniquities.
A clean heart create for me, God;
renew within me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from before Your face,
nor take from me Your holy spirit.
Restore to me the gladness of Your salvation;
uphold me with a willing spirit.
I will teach the wicked your ways,
that sinners may return to You.
Rescue me from violent bloodshed, God, my saving God,
and my tongue will sing joyfully of Your justice.
Lord, You will open my lips;
and my mouth will proclaim Your praise.
For You do not desire sacrifice or I would give it;
a burnt offering You would not accept.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.
Treat Zion kindly according to Your good will;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then You will desire the sacrifices of the just,
burnt offering and whole offerings;
then they will offer up young bulls on Your altar.
-Ps 51:1-20


-by Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers

“Lent began this year with a debate. If a fast-food sandwich patty is made with a plant-based product that’s indistinguishable from real meat, can Catholics both abstain from meat during Lent and have their “burgers” too? The Washington Post recently featured a debate amongst Catholics on the controversy.

“I will be honest: when someone asked me that, my first thought was, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?! It’s genius!!’” the Rev. Marlon Mendieta, of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Fayetteville, N.C., wrote in an email. “But then my conscience kicked in, and I just felt that I wouldn’t be okay with that.”

Fr. Mendieta polled his priest friends for their thoughts. One priest just shrugged. “If it’s not meat, it’s not meat.”

Since another priest noted to Fr. Mendieta that it “seems like it goes against the spirit of the penitential season if we just eat things that taste like the stuff we’re supposed to be abstaining from,” I looked around online for reviews of the Impossible Burger, a popular meatless product made by Impossible Foods.

“The outside of the burger is coated in coconut oil, so it has a crunchy savoury outside like you get on a beef burger when you fry it,” a British food critic wrote. “And there it was inside: that pinky soft middle. It was simply delicious. The flavour was really good—the best veggie burger I’ve ever had. However, I was hoping it would be indistinguishable from a meat burger so I was slightly disappointed that I could still tell the difference.”

So, what’s a Catholic to do this Lent? Can you licitly satisfy your craving for meat on the days of abstinence with an Impossible Burger? Let’s look first at the Church’s requirements for abstinence from meat during Lent. The Code of Canon Law states:

Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the episcopal conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. … The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. … The episcopal conference[s] can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed (canons 1251–1253).

Since these canons permit national episcopal conferences to adjust the universal disciplines for their countries, the USCCB ruled for Catholics in the United States that Catholics are required to abstain from meat on the Lenten Fridays. On all other Fridays, the US bishops “terminate[d] the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin” and urged Catholics to “ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice.”

For Catholics, the purpose of abstinence from meat on these days is to perform penance. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines penance as “a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart” (1431) and teaches that this interior act of the heart can be outwardly expressed—both individually and in community with fellow Christians—“in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others” (1434).

Penance, then, while it is an interior transformation of the heart, is expressed to the world in acts that demonstrate our commitment to that conversion. Abstinence from meat is a traditional act Catholics perform to express our work toward that “radical reorientation” of our lives that penance entails.

Chowing down on an Impossible Burger on a Lenten Friday meets the letter of the law. As Fr. Mendieta’s priest friend said, “If it’s not meat, it’s not meat.” And if you can tell that your Impossible Burger is just a really good vegetarian burger, but not a beef burger, then eating your veggie burger may be a more sacrificial choice for you than an alternative seafood option, such as a lobster roll or crab cakes.

Catholics also need to take care not to become hyper-scrupulous about their food choices on days of penance. A few years ago, I was contacted during Lent by a mother of two teenage boys, both of whom had autism and a sensory processing dysfunction. She was anxious about whether she should give her boys the sweets they customarily ate at mealtimes because they needed the routine and familiar taste as incentives to eat the rest of their meals. I pointed out to this mom that her children had a medical need for sweets in their diet and I urged her not to worry further about fulfilling the Lenten penance requirement.

Nonetheless, Catholics should remember that penance in the Catholic tradition is not merely an individual act but a communal act. The Church assigns specific days of penance, in part, to invite all able-bodied Catholics to act together to reorient ourselves to God as a community. Our individual acts of penance serve as a reminder and encouragement to our fellow Catholics to join us in acting as the mystical body of Christ on earth.

So, what happens when fellow Catholics see you eating your Impossible Burger on a day of penance? If, to all outward appearances, you seem to be eating a “forbidden food” on a Lenten Friday, others may believe that you’re flouting the Church’s disciplinary laws. If that happens, then your act could become a source of scandal. The Catechism states:

“Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense. Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized.” (2284–2285).

St. Paul asked Christians not to seek their own good but to seek the good of their neighbor (1 Cor. 10:23–24). If you can easily choose between multiple licit options on days of abstinence, why choose the one option that could cause confusion or distress for your Catholic family and friends? Just because you can licitly eat an Impossible Burger on a Lenten Friday doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, unless you have some mitigating circumstance to do so (e.g., medical necessity, lack of alternatives).

The Post writer observed that “For as long as religious dietary guidelines have existed, somewhere there has likely been at least one moderately devoted practitioner desperately searching for loopholes.” If your intent in eating an Impossible Burger this Lent is a desire to slide through a loophole in the Church’s disciplinary rules, you may want to consider whether that’s a properly penitential attitude.”

Love & have mercy on me God, for I am a sinful man,
Matthew

Sackcloth & ashes

https://www.gotquestions.org/sackcloth-and-ashes.html

“Sackcloth and ashes were used in Old Testament times as a symbol of debasement, mourning, and/or repentance. Someone wanting to show his repentant heart would often wear sackcloth, sit in ashes, and put ashes on top of his head. Sackcloth was a coarse material usually made of black goat’s hair, making it quite uncomfortable to wear. The ashes signified desolation and ruin.

When someone died, the act of putting on sackcloth showed heartfelt sorrow for the loss of that person. We see an example of this when David mourned the death of Abner, the commander of Saul’s army (2 Samuel 3:31). Jacob also demonstrated his grief by wearing sackcloth when he thought his son Joseph had been killed (Genesis 37:34). These instances of mourning for the dead mention sackcloth but not ashes.

Ashes accompanied sackcloth in times of national disaster or repenting from sin. Esther 4:1, for instance, describes Mordecai tearing his clothes, putting on sackcloth and ashes, and walking out into the city “wailing loudly and bitterly.” This was Mordecai’s reaction to King Xerxes’ declaration giving the wicked Haman authority to destroy the Jews (see Esther 3:8–15). Mordecai was not the only one who grieved. “In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:3). The Jews responded to the devastating news concerning their race with sackcloth and ashes, showing their intense grief and distress.

Sackcloth and ashes were also used as a public sign of repentance and humility before God. When Jonah declared to the people of Nineveh that God was going to destroy them for their wickedness, everyone from the king on down responded with repentance, fasting, and sackcloth and ashes (Jonah 3:5–7). They even put sackcloth on their animals (verse 8). Their reasoning was, “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish” (verse 9). This is interesting because the Bible never says that Jonah’s message included any mention of God’s mercy; but mercy is what they received. It’s clear that the Ninevites’ donning of sackcloth and ashes was not a meaningless show. God saw genuine change—a humble change of heart represented by the sackcloth and ashes—and it caused Him to “relent” and not bring about His plan to destroy them (Jonah 3:10).

Other people the Bible mentions wearing sackcloth include King Hezekiah (Isaiah 37:1), Eliakim (2 Kings 19:2), King Ahab (1 Kings 21:27), the elders of Jerusalem (Lamentations 2:10), Daniel (Daniel 9:3), and the two witness in Revelation 11:3.

Very simply, sackcloth and ashes were used as an outward sign of one’s inward condition. Such a symbol made one’s change of heart visible and demonstrated the sincerity of one’s grief and/or repentance. It was not the act of putting on sackcloth and ashes itself that moved God to intervene, but the humility that such an action demonstrated (see 1 Samuel 16:7). God’s forgiveness in response to genuine repentance is celebrated by David’s words: “You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11).”

Love & His mercy,
Matthew

Lent: weepers, hearers, kneelers, standers

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/sackcloth-and-ashes

“To some non-Catholics Christians, the traditional pentitential practices of the Church (especially those of Lent) are unbiblical—traditions of men that are at best unnecessary and at worst seek to replace or add to Christ’s sacrifice with human works.

Yet penance has been part of the true religion since before the time of Christ, as shown by the Old Testament’s injunctions concerning fasting, wearing sackcloth, and sitting in dust and ashes. And they have been part of the Christian Church since its earliest days.

Penances can be formal or informal, but they amount to the same thing: expressions before God of sorrow over one’s sins, which is not only required by God but also by human nature; human beings have an innate need to mourn tragedies, and our sins are tragedies.

In ancient formal penitential discipline, there were four classes of penitents who had committed major sins (e.g., idolatry, murder, abortion, adultery), and they moved through the classes on their way to full reconciliation.

(Ed. there was a wonderful ancient tradition I was made aware of where, during the Easter vigil, the bishop would lead the penitents, thenceforth, banned from full communion due to their sin, being led by the hand by the bishop back into the Church. Lovely.)

Weepers were not allowed in the church but stayed outside and asked those going in to pray for them. Hearers stood inside church doors and heard the liturgy of the word but were dismissed, like the catechumens, before the liturgy of the Eucharist. Kneelers knelt or lay down in church and participated with the Church in specific prayers for them before being blessed by the bishop and dismissed prior to the Eucharist. Standers sat in the congregation and stayed for the liturgy of the Eucharist but did not receive Communion.

As these following selections show, the Church Fathers had a lively understanding of the role of penance in the Christian life (cf. Matt. 6:16-18, Mark 2:18-20, Acts 13:2-3, Jas. 4:8-10), an understanding we would do well to recover as we progress through this Lenten season: weeping for our sins, hearing the voice of God calling us back to communion with Him, kneeling in His presence with true contrition, and standing attentively as we ponder the lessons of His word.

THE DIDACHE

Before the baptism, let the one baptizing and the one to be baptized fast, as also any others who are able. Command the one who is to be baptized to fast beforehand for one or two days…[After becoming a Christian] do not let your fasts be with the hypocrites. They fast on Monday and Thursday, but you shall fast on Wednesday and Friday (Didache 7:1, 8:1 [A.D.70]).

POPE CLEMENT I

You [Corinthians], therefore, who laid the foundation of the rebellion [in your church], submit to the presbyters and be chastened to repentance, bending your knees in a spirit of humility (Letter to the Corinthians 57 [A.D. 80]).

HERMAS

[The old woman told me:] “Every prayer should be accompanied with humility: fast, therefore, and you will obtain from the Lord what you beg.” I fasted therefore for one day (The Shepherd 1:3:10 [A.D. 80]).

IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH

For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ (Letter to the Philadelphians 3 [A.D. 110]).

POLYCARP

Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning; staying awake in prayer, and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God “not to lead us into temptation,” as the Lord has said: “The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak” [Matt. 26:41] (Letter to the Philippians 7 [A.D. 135]).

JUSTIN MARTYR

I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we are praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us to where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (First Apology 61 [A.D. 151]).

IRENAEUS

Some consider themselves bound to fast one day [during Lent], others two days, others still more, while others [do so during] forty; the diurnal and the nocturnal hours they measure out together as their [fasting] day. And this variety among the observers [of the fasts] had not its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors (Letter to Pope Victor [A.D. 190]).

TERTULLIAN

Confession is a discipline for man’s prostration and humiliation…It commands one to lie in sackcloth and ashes, to cover the body with mourning, to cast the spirit down in sorrow, to exchange the sins which have been committed for a demeanor of sorrow; to take no food or drink except what is plain, not, of course, for the sake of the stomach, but for the sake of the soul; and most of all, to feed prayers on fasting; to groan, to weep and wail day and night to the Lord your God; to bow before the presbyters, to kneel before God’s refuge places [altars], and to beseech all the brethren for the embassy of their own supplication (Repentance 9:3-5 [A.D. 203]).

ORIGEN

There is also a seventh, albeit hard and laborious [method of forgiveness] – the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner washes his pillow in tears, when his tears are day and night his nourishment, and when he does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord (Homilies on Leviticus 2:4 [A.D. 248]).

CYPRIAN

Sinners may do penance for a set time, and according to the rules of discipline come to public confession, and by imposition of the hand of the bishop and clergy receive the right of communion (Letters 9:2).

GREGORY THAUMATURGUS

Weeping is done outside the gate of the oratory, and the sinner standing there ought to implore the faithful, as they enter, to pray for him. Hearing is in the narthex inside the gate, where the sinner ought to stand while the catechumens are there, and afterward he should depart. For let him hear the Scriptures and the teachings…and then be cast out and not be reckoned as worthy of [the penitential] prayer. Submission allows one to stand within the gate of the temple, but he must go out with the catechumens. Assembly allows one to be associated with the faithful, without the necessity of going out with the catechumens. Last of all is participation in the consecrated elements (Canonical Letter, canon 11 [A.D. 256]).

EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA

[The Emperor Philip,] being a Christian desired, on the day of the last paschal vigil, to share with the multitude in the prayers of the Church, but that he was not permitted to enter, by him who then presided, until he had made confession and had numbered himself among those who were reckoned as transgressors and who occupied the place of penance. For if he had not done this, he would never have been received by him, on account of the many crimes which he had committed. It is said that he obeyed readily, manifesting in his conduct a genuine and pious fear of God (Church History 6:34 [A.D. 312]).

COUNCIL OF NICAEA I

It is decided by the council, even though they [those who apostatized without coercion during the persecution of Licinius] are unworthy of mercy, to treat them, nevertheless, with kindness. Those, then, who are truly repentant shall, as already baptized [people], spend three years among the hearers, and seven years among the kneelers, and for two years they shall participate with the people in prayers, but without taking part in the offering (canon 11 [A.D. 325]).

JEROME

If the serpent, the devil, bites someone secretly, he infects that person with the venom of sin. And if the one who has been bitten keeps silence and does not do penance, and does not want to confess his wound…then his brother and his master, who have the word [of absolution] that will cure him, cannot very well assist him (Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:11 [A.D. 388]).

BASIL THE GREAT

Let him who has [committed incest]…[a]fter coming to an awareness of that dread sin, let him be a weeper for three years, standing at the door of the houses of prayer and begging the people entering there for the purpose of praying to offer in sympathy for him, each one, earnest petitions to the Lord. After this, let him be admitted for another three years among the hearers only; and when he has heard the Scriptures and the teachings, let him be put out and not be deemed worthy of the prayer. Then, if he has sought it with tears and has cast himself down before the Lord with a contrite heart and with great humility, let him be given admission for another three years. And thus, when he has exhibited fruits worthy of repentance, let him be admitted in the tenth year to the prayer of the faithful without communion. And when he has assembled for two years in prayer with the faithful, then let him finally be deemed worthy of the communion of the good (Letters 217:75 [A.D. 367]).”

Love, & His mercy,
Matthew

Lent: “Whoever wishes to come after Me must take up his cross and deny himself.” Mt 16:24


-by Fr Carlos Martins, CC, a former atheist, Fr Carlos now currently conducts ministry with sacred relics of the saints, with Treasures of the Church ministry.

“I once gave a talk on Lenten fasting and mortification at a gathering of Catholic professionals. One of the attendees came up to me afterward, slightly annoyed, and said that fasting and mortification were not part of her spirituality. “I can follow Jesus perfectly well without them,” she said. “I focus instead on doing good.” (Ironically, that day was a Friday during Lent, and she had purchased fancy cupcakes for everyone.)

I responded with a question. “Then what did Jesus mean when he said, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself’?” (Matt. 16:24).

In recent years, many Catholics have taken on Lenten “self-giving” penances rather than engaging in those that are more explicitly acts of self-denial. Thus, rather than give up things such as sweets, coffee, eating animal flesh (even on Fridays), or some other good thing, there is an exhortation to do such things as pray an extra chaplet, visit a shut-in, devote more time to spiritual reading, or some other such activity. Or even to “fast” from vices such as unkindness.

Prayer and works of mercy are both wonderful and necessary Lenten practices. However, if we do not practice self-denial of things that are good, then we miss the point of Lent.

Two principles are relevant here. First, Jesus remains our model and exemplar. You can bet that Our Lord engaged in much prayer and intercession during his forty days in the desert. But he did so while engaging in rigorous and meaningful self-denial. Scripture states that Jesus fasted while in the desert (Luke 4:2). The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (540). The Church has been fasting for 2,000 years. The legitimacy and moral authority of fasting speaks for itself.

Second, in neglecting to fast we could be inadvertently feeding the beast. One of the effects of the fall is an inordinate love of self. We often think too highly of ourselves. We allow our appetites to run amok. One of the purposes of the season of Lent is to attack this inordinate love of self.

Indeed, fantasizing about being more than what they were is how Adam and Eve were tricked by the devil into rejecting God. “‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from the tree your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God’” (Gen. 3:4-5). It is worth noting that when the devil plied this temptation, Adam and Eve had not yet fallen. In other words, human nature was still as God had made it: intact and unbroken. It was by luring them to inordinate self-love that the devil got them to fall for his sordid trap. We’ve been paying the price ever since.

Our brokenness is a force to be reckoned with. It can easily bring us down into all sorts of dysfunction and sin. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives a strong exhortation to attack that broken self, what he calls our old self: “You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:22-24). Paul identifies our old self as the source of our sinfulness, our disordered passions, our refusal to follow the Lord and, ultimately, our unhappiness. To allow it to exist is foolishness. We must declare war on it instead.

We put our old self to death by mortification. Mortification comes from two Latin words, mortem and facere; together they mean “to bring about death.” It consists of the practice of measured denial of our lower appetites and desire for sensual pleasure. To mortify ourselves brings liberation. Indeed, the Catechism calls self-denial one of “the preconditions of all true freedom” (2223).

One of the most basic and traditional forms of observing Lent is fasting: mandatory for all Catholics (except for those exempted by age or illness) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and encouraged throughout the season. It has the weight not just of ancient Christian practice behind it but that of all major religions. Even the ancient philosophers practiced fasting. Plato, for example, fasted in order to achieve greater physical and mental efficiency.

Some people can fast quite rigorously. Others have more difficulty. For them, some creativity may be necessary.

I had a friend with very low body weight. For him to miss a meal, or not to consume his regular amount of food, meant virtual non-functionality. He couldn’t do his job, he couldn’t concentrate, he couldn’t engage in conversation. This is certainly not what the Church desires when it prescribes fasting. Thus, rather than cutting down on the amount of food he ate (which was already only the amount he needed to function), he deprived himself of the things that made food enjoyable. He refused himself all condiments. Salt, pepper, hot sauce, ketchup, butter, and the like were emptied from his house prior to Lent.

Do you find it burdensome to fast? Try eating your hamburger without ketchup, mustard, cheese, and the other condiments you enjoy putting on it. Do not salt your fries. Do you need a cup of coffee to be alert and to function? Forego the cream and sweetener. In all these practices you’ll feel the deprivation, and you will live an authentic Lent. In fact, depriving ourselves of condiments is a great way to fast, since although they add pleasure to our eating experience, they possess virtually no nutritional value. For forty days, why not put them to death?

To be clear, practicing penance is not an end in itself. The Church does not prescribe penance because it is sadistic; it prescribes it for two essential realities it brings about. The first is that it reminds us of our own mortality. The displeasure that comes with fasting makes us feel our lack of self-sufficiency and our dependence on God. It makes our prayer that much more real and genuine because it is prayer made with both the body and the mind. That prayer, in turn, may fuel acts of charity.

The second is that a meaningful, sincere, and authentic Lenten observance makes Easter that much more of a celebration. When Lent is over it is time for glory, and we consume the good things we have gone without. And it is good to do so. They are a reminder of the glory that Christ has purchased for us and that awaits us in the next life.

Indeed, Scripture describes heaven as a banquet (Matt. 22:2), a wedding feast (Matt. 25: 10), a place devoid of hunger (Rev. 7:16). Although it is true that the Church takes seriously the observance of fasting, it is equally true that no one appreciates a feast like the Church. For 2,000 years she has been preparing for one. “Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15).

May God bless us all in our Lenten observances.”

Love,
Matthew

Chains that bind


-by Br Luke VanBerkum, OP

“Some chains are taken off and some are put on.

We hear in Scripture, “The Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains” (Ps 69:33), and again, “He led them forth from darkness and gloom and broke their chains to pieces” (Ps 107:14). The Lord is the breaker of chains!

What, then, do we make of the Gerasene demoniac? The devil had come to possess this man, and his fellow townspeople had tried to bind him in chains in an attempt to control the devil. But, “no one was strong enough to subdue him” (Mk 5:4)—the devil easily made him destroy these bonds.

Does the devil offer the same freedom from bondage as the Lord? Assuredly not: it is a mirage that still leaves him bound. This false freedom is called license, and such a “freedom” only leads to “bruising” (Mk 5:5) of the soul.

Alone we can do nothing to bind the devil and come to true freedom. “No one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property,” Jesus tells us, “unless he first ties up the strong man” (Mk 3:27). The Gerasene demoniac was possessed: he had become the house for the strong man, the devil. He needed someone stronger than the strong man.

‘Thus says the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.’ (Is 49:24-25)

Jesus looked on the possessed man with compassion, and then, as the Lord promised, He entered the strong man’s house. With His mighty word, He bound the devil and cast him out into a herd of swine. He then plundered the house—rather, He claimed the man for God and restored him to his right mind and right place at the feet of Jesus (Lk 8:35).

We, too, need Christ to break into our souls when we are bound by sin, when the strong man in his cunning has ensnared us in his chains. We seek in hope those effective words—“I absolve you from your sins”—that bind up the strong man and transform the soul.

Such transformation propels us into the great mystery of love. Those things that the devil attempts to use against us are recast in love for the salvation of our souls. Thus, we have saints who—in the face of the devil—freely choose to wear chains about their bodies. These are not chains of sin. They are “chains of love in which they allow themselves to be entrapped, so that they will love [God],” St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes (Office of Readings, Aug 1).

These chains of love come in various forms. For St. Dominic an actual iron chain adorned his waist as an act of penance. Acts of penance only come from intense love for souls. Desiring the salvation of every soul, like his savior Jesus Christ, St. Dominic lovingly chose to undergo significant pain as an offering for the forgiveness of sins.

You and I will most likely not don chains in such a way, but we can still consider other, lighter, chains of love. This is why we take on penances, or mortifications, during Lent. We love Jesus, and inspired by this love we seek to offer something alongside His offering on the cross for the salvation of our own soul and the souls of all sinners.

The devil uses chains to bind, but Christ breaks them. We use chains to love, and these Christ helps us carry.”

Love,
Matthew

Sinning boldly without fear of God

“There is good reason to be astonished that men should sin so boldly in the sight of Heaven and earth and show so little fear of the most high God. Yet it is a much greater cause of astonishment that while we multiply our iniquities beyond the sands of the sea and have so great a need for God to be kind and indulgent, we are nevertheless so demanding ourselves. Such indignity and such injustice! We want God to suffer everything from us, and we are not able to suffer anything from anyone. We exaggerate beyond measure the faults committed against us; worms that we are, we take the slightest pressure exerted on us to be an enormous attack. Meanwhile, we count as nothing what we undertake proudly against the sovereign majesty of God and the rights of his empire! Blind and wretched mortals: will we always be so sensitive and delicate? Will we never open our eyes to the truth? Will we never understand that the one who does injury to us is always much more to be pitied than are we who receive the injury? . . . Since those who do evil to us are unhealthy in mind, why do we embitter them by our cruel vengeance? Why do we not rather seek to bring them back to reason by our patience and mildness? Yet we are far removed from these charitable dispositions. Far from making the effort at self-command that would enable us to endure an injury, we think that we are lowering ourselves if we do not take pride in being delicate in points of honor. We even think well of ourselves for our extreme sensitivity. And we carry our resentment beyond all measure . . . All of this must stop . . . We must take care of what we say and bridle our malicious anger and unruly tongues. For there is a God in Heaven who has told us that he will demand a reckoning of our ‘careless words’ (Matt. 12:36): what recompense shall he exact for those which are harmful and malicious? We ought, therefore, to revere his eyes and his presence. Let us ponder the fact that he will judge us as we have judged our neighbor.”  — Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, p. 49-51

Love & repentance,
Matthew

Suffering


-adapted from Br. Luke VanBerkum, OP

“The onslaught of television shows, movies, advertisements, and pop culture can skew the perception of a normal human life. We unconsciously form an idea of what there is to expect in life: peak physical fitness and attractiveness, perfect love, and material happiness. Young people especially can become enamored with this picture, making it the standard of a fulfilling life. But this ignores a very real aspect of our existence: suffering…

By Jesus, we are transformed from dying on the cross. As St. Peter says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24). By Christ’s death and resurrection, we are freed from original sin, and life with God in heaven is made possible.

While we wait in hope for heavenly glory, we suffer during this life on earth because of the effects of sin. Our suffering, though, is not in vain. It is a participation in Jesus’s own suffering: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps” (1 Pet 2:21). Following in Christ’s footsteps by offering up our suffering to God prepares us to continue following in His footsteps unto eternal life. (Ed. Treasury of Merit!!)

Must we suffer with Christ?… Our physical deterioration is inevitable as we age. Wheelchairs and the return of diapers are in our future. Bed baths, walking with a walker, Alzheimer’s, and dementia are all real possibilities. The helplessness and reliance on others that mark this later stage of life can be frightening, and so it is easy to ignore it until we are in the clutches of old age. (…whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. Ps 121:1-2)

How can we prepare spiritually for this bodily suffering? With constant practice over a lifetime, we can form a habit of prayer, an awareness of the presence of God, and firmly rooted virtue. Moreover, the Church has given us this season of Lent to consider suffering, particularly the greatest mystery of suffering: GOD suffering on the cross. Contemplating the cross now…prepares us for when our body becomes our cross. Staying close to Christ and His cross transforms this suffering into an eternal reward. Embracing the cross, we are ready to follow Christ into eternal life, where one day our bodies will be glorified supernaturally as we share in God’s life.”

Love, joy, hope,
Matthew

Laetare! Gaudete!

Laetáre, Jerúsalem, et conventum fácite, omnes qui dilígitis eam: gaudéte cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis, ut exsultétis, et satiémini ab ubéribus consolatiónis vestrae. – Is 66:10 (Ps. 122:1-2) Laetátus sum in his, quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Dómini íbimus. Gloria Patri. Laetáre… (The Introit of the Fourth Sunday of Lent)

“Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together, all you who love her: rejoice with joy, you who have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. – Is 66:10

Ps. 122:1-2 “I rejoiced at the things that were said to me, We will go up to the house of the Lord. Glory be… Rejoice, O Jerusalem…”

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Tempus adest gratiae, hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Deus homo factus est natura mirante
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Ezechielis porta clausa per transitur
Unde lux est orta salus invenitur

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Ergo nostra cantio psallat iam in lustro
Benedicat domino salus regi nostro

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!

The time of grace has come—
What we have wished for;
Songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!

God has become man,
With nature marvelling,
The world has been renewed
By the reigning Christ.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!

The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is risen;
Salvation has been found.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!

Therefore, let our preaching
Now sing in brightness
Let it bless the Lord:
Greeting to our King.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary –
Rejoice!


-by Br Elijah Dubek, OP

“An old tradition still permits priests to wear rose-colored (not pink) vestments on two Sundays each year: Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (yesterday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent). Both are named for the first word of the entrance chant at Mass. Those of you who love your Latin may immediately link the two by their common titles—both are the command “rejoice.” The history of how rose-colored vestments arrived on the scene takes much more untangling than noting this similarity in language. This is the very short version:

Part I: Stational Churches

In the early centuries of the Church, a practice developed in Rome wherein the pope (or his legate) would celebrate a solemn Mass in one after another of the four major and the three minor basilicas. More churches were added to this list as the number of liturgical occasions increased, bringing the count of “stations” to over forty. On the day of a station, the faithful of Rome would gather and process to the church where Mass would be celebrated by the pope. In the pre-Vatican II Missal, a station was indicated for each Sunday, major feast days, and every weekday during Lent—a total of 89 stations! There has been a revival of these customs in recent decades, and the Church still attaches indulgences to those who participate in them.

Part II: Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem

The stational church for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, whose story is fascinating. This church was built by St. Helena (mother of Constantine) after she brought relics of our Lord’s Passion and dirt from Golgotha back from her expedition to Jerusalem. The soil was spread over the site and the basilica built on top of it—the “in Jerusalem” of the basilica’s name refers to this soil on which it was built, a part of Jerusalem. Because of this soil and the relics inside the basilica, this church became a substitute pilgrimage site when Christians could not travel to the Holy Land itself.

Part III: The Golden Rose

With its own history far too long to adequately examine here, another custom developed in Rome: the papal blessing of the golden rose. Related to a popular festival in which flowers were worn to mark the “victory” of spring over winter, this rose found Christological symbolism: the thorns and the red tint given to the golden petals signified the passion of Christ; the fragrance of the rose symbolized his burial. The pope would bless this sacramental and bestow it on some deserving person or place. Before you think we’re off track: this blessing was given on the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Why? As a sacramental related to our Lord’s Passion, where better to bless it than where relics of the Passion were kept—and where the Pope celebrated Mass every year on the Fourth Sunday of Lent?

Part IV: Rose Vestments

Italians, especially Roman Italians, loved (and still love) festivals and parades. This celebration of the golden rose with the Fourth Sunday of Lent was extremely popular, so much so, in fact, that they called the day the “Sunday of the Rose.” Add the lack of fixed or standardized vestment colors, even for Lent, and the festive Roman mind of the sixteenth century needed little excuse to adopt rose vestments for the Sunday of the Rose. When the Church extended Roman liturgical customs to the whole Latin Church, Catholics everywhere could see these rose vestments two Sundays a year.

While it is fair to say that “rejoicing” is an official meaning of the custom of rose-colored vestments nowadays, the traditional roots of the rose tried to turn our focus more deeply on Jerusalem and Christ’s Passion there. Let us not forget to make pilgrimage with Jesus to Jerusalem.

I rejoiced when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

And now our feet are standing

Within your gates, O Jerusalem. (Ps. 122:1-2)”

Love,
Matthew

Vere Languores Nostros – Truly He bore our griefs, Service of Tenebrae, Holy Thursday, (III Responsory of I Nocturn)


-please click on the image for more detail

Vere languores nostros ipse tulit,
et dolore nostros ipse portavit;
Cujus livore sanati sumus.
Dulce lignum, dulces clavos,
dulcia ferens pondera,
quae sola fuisti digna
sustinere Regem coelorum et Dominum.

Truly He bore our griefs,
and carried our sorrows;
by His wounds we are healed.
Sweet cross, sweet nails,
sweetly bearing the weight,
you alone were worthy
to bear the King of heaven and the Lord.

Love,
Matthew