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The season of Lent is famously the most serious of all times in the Church’s Liturgical Year. The message of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving constantly rings aloud in preparation for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But how do we actually live this out? What prayers should we be saying, why the need for fasting, and what is almsgiving? And why is Lent such a serious time anyways?
It is with great pleasure that we offer our annual “Lent with the Director” online Lecture Series, wherein you can spend time during the first three weeks of Lent learning about and contemplating this wonderful season with Daniel Campbell, Director of the Lay Division. The lectures begin on Monday, March 7th and will continue on March 14th and 21st. Class times are 9-10am and 6:30-7:30pm, with access to both sessions through the same Zoom link. Click here to learn more and to register.
In anticipation of the Lecture Series, below is a reflection from Daniel as we approach the beginning of Lent with Ash Wednesday. You can also listen to a free sample audio for Lent with the Director here.
While the First Sunday of Advent begins the Church’s Liturgical Year anew, the heart of the Church’s Liturgical Year is Lent, particularly its culmination in what we call the “Sacred Triduum”—that collection of liturgical celebrations encompassing the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, beginning with the Last Supper celebration on Maundy Thursday, followed by the Crucifixion on Good Friday, and then on to the Resurrection of Jesus, first celebrated at the Easter Vigil.
This Sacred Triduum is the climax to Lent because it is the heart of God’s saving acts made present to us today in the liturgy, precisely because the Passion, Death, and Resurrection are the saving acts of God par excellence. And so with Lent, we’re in the heart of the Church’s Liturgical Year. It is certainly the most solemn time in the Church’s Liturgical Year, precisely because this is that time of the year, moreso than any other, when we are especially preparing ourselves, in cooperation with God’s benevolent grace, for salvation in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.
The question that follows thus ought to be: how do I properly prepare for the Sacred Triduum? The famous answer is to do penance. Penance consists primarily of two aspects: repentance and reparation. The first, repentance, is sorrow for sin, along with the resolve to sin no more. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we will never commit a single sin ever again for the rest of our lives, but it does mean that we resolve to sin no more, without which our contrition is hollow.
Subsequent to our repentance is reparation, which is effectively the attempt to appease the Divine justice, or to set in balance the scales of Divine justice, at least insofar as we could even remotely consider the possibility of doing so. Which of course we can’t, which is why God dies on the cross for us, since only the infinite God can actually satisfy His own infinite justice. Nevertheless, we at least attempt, by reparation, to set things right where we went wrong.
And this is how Lent prepares us to celebrate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus: by way of penance, consisting of repentance and reparation. For it is our sins, beginning with Adam in the Garden of Eden, that have caused an infinite offense again the infinite God, setting the scales of Divine justice out of balance. It is thus our sins that have brought upon our sweet Lord His weeping and sweating of blood in His agony in the garden, His scourging that ripped His flesh off of His body, the organ of His Divinity, and the mockery of His true and eternal kingship in the crowning with thorns. And it is our sins that drove the nails into His hands and feet, and our sins that caused the lance to pierce His Most Sacred Heart.
Thankfully our Lord, in the infinite Divine and perfect human love of His Sacred Heart, offered this all in sacrifice to atone for these very sins. But that doesn’t change the fact that in order to prepare ourselves for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, we spend 40 days in penance to remove ourselves from sin. Penance that is famously manifested, of course, in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
I hope that you will all join me for my “Lent with the Director” online Lecture Series and learn how you can better enter into the spirit of the season and prepare for the heart of the Church’s Liturgical Year!