The season of Lent is simpler than we tend to make it. The Church encourages us to pray… to fast … to give. In doing so, it is not asking us to do more than we should already be doing. As followers of Jesus, our baptism calls us to move out of ourselves and to think of others… to always be focused on the kingdom of God and God’s ways for the good of the community.
Sacred Heart's 2020 Lent Schedule
THE “FRONT PORCH” OF LENT
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, but the “Forty Days” of Lent does not actually begin until the 1st Sunday of Lent. Count from the 1st Sunday of Lent until the end — on Holy Thursday with the beginning of the Triduum — and you get exactly 40 days. Think of the days before the 1st Sunday as the “Front Porch of Lent”, a few days to help ease Christians into the Lenten fast. Before the reforms of the second Vatican Council, we had several weeks called Septuagesima, recognizing that we need time to set aside sinful habits so that we can embrace the spiritual discipline of Lent. As you read this in preparation for Lent, remember that the fasting, abstinence, prayer and almsgiving of Lent should not be confined to those 40 days but should spill out into the rest of the liturgical year.
THE SEASON OF LENT
The word Lent means springtime. This word comes from the same root as lengthen. Daytime lengthens during Lent. The northern hemisphere turns toward the sun, the source of life, and winter turns into spring. In Hebrew, the word for repentance is the same as the word that means to turn, like the turning of the earth to the sun, like the turning of the soil before planting.
“Even now, says the Lord, turn to me.” (Joel 2:12). During Lent, we are called to turn from our separate selves, from our sin, to come together in community. Self-denial is the way we express our repentance. In the lengthening brightness from Ash Wednesday until Holy Thursday afternoon, our holy Lent, we turn to God as our source of life.
Why are there forty days in Lent? It took forty days for sinfulness to drown in the flood before a new creation could inherit the earth. It took forty years for the generation of slaves to die before the freeborn could enter the promised land. For forty days Moses and Elijah and Jesus fasted and prayed to prepare themselves for a life’s work.
We keep Lent together. We put aside our business-as-usual to support each other in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We turn to God to enlighten us and purify us throughout the lengthening brightness of our holy season of Lent.
“For now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!”
Copyright 1997, Archdiocese of Chicago. Liturgy Training Publications, 1800 North Hermitage Avenue, Chicago IL 60622-1101; 1800-933-1800. Text by Peter Mazar.
Traditionally, the Fridays of Lent are special days of prayer. By Church law, Catholics are obliged to abstain from meat (fish is OK) on Lenten Fridays. At 6pm we will gather for Evening Prayer and Stations of the Cross, a “mini-pilgrimage”, where we walk around the church, reflecting on the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.
Consider setting aside the Friday evenings of Lent to pray with the Church. Any time spent in prayer with the Lord is time well-spent.
THE PERIOD OF PURIFICATION AND ENLIGHTENMENT
At the beginning of Lent, the Catechumens who are deemed ready to celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil go to the bishop, where he hears testimony on their behalf from the Church, and the bishop declares that they are elected for baptism, chosen to be God’s own in Christ Jesus. The season of Lent for them (and us) is a time of purification — letting go of what is sinful in their lives — and enlightenment — allowing the light of Christ to shine in their hearts.
During the forty days, we “present” the Elect with the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed, the treasures of our faith. We also celebrate special scrutinies on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent, which are special prayers meant to “…bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good” (RCIA, 141). This Lent keep the Elect in your daily prayer.