Lent-Focused on Easter
As everyone seems to be looking ahead to spring, those who practice the Catholic faith will also be focusing on Easter, a day of celebration that is also the culmination of a period of spiritual reflection called Lent. The forty-day liturgical season of fasting, special prayer and almsgiving in preparation for Easter. The name “Lent” is from the Middle English Lenten and Anglo-Saxon lencten, meaning spring; its more primitive ecclesiastical name was the “forty days,” tessaracoste in Greek. The pre-Easter fast in the first three centuries (observed especially by catechumens and sponsors) lasted only two or three days. It later developed into three or four weeks. The number forty is first noted in the Canons of Nicaea (A.D. 325), likely in imitation of Jesus’ fast in the desert before His public ministry (with Old Testament precedent in Moses and Elijah). In some Eastern Churches this ment five fast days per week for seven weeks (Saturday and Sunday excepted), making the total only thirty-five; in Jerusalem in the fourth century, this meant five days’ fast for eight weeks. In most of the West at the time, this meant six days’ fast per week of six weeks; in the seventh century the days from Ash Wednesday through the First Sunday were added to make the number forty.
An important aspect of the Lenten Liturgy was the observance of the Station Masses whereby the Pope would celebrate Mass, preceded by a procession with a relic of the True Cross, in a different church in Rome for each day in Lent. The present sacramentary recalls this custom and then “strongly encourages the chief shepherd of the diocese to gather his people in this way. Especially during Lent, he should meet with his people and celebrate the liturgy with them.” Another unique feature of the Lenten Liturgy is the present restoration of the Scrutiny Masses on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent for the catechumens (now called the “elect”), who will be initiated at the Easter Vigil.
The 40 days in the liturgical calendar called Lent will begin Feb. 22, on Ash Wednesday, and end on April 7, Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. They are traditionally regarded as a time of prayer, care for the impoverished, and some kind of self-denial—fasting, perhaps, or another type of doing without as a means of spiritual preparation for the solemn observation of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, the son of God, on Good Friday and, two days later, for the joyful celebration of His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
In his book, “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week,” Pope Benedict XVI writes an extended reflection on the Resurrection. He insists that the Resurrection is not a metaphor, not a figment of the apostles’ imagination, but something so new and yet so certain that it transformed the apostles and sent them out into the world to preach the Good News of salvation. Pope Benedict reminds us that what we profess is both completely serious and utterly joyful. This Easter, we as a Church must beg our Savior God to transform us, to rekindle the fire in our hearts and draw us closer to himself in Mass. And if we pray this Easter prayer with our whole hearts, we can know one thing for sure: God’s answer will not be convenient, and it will change everything. St. Paul said, ‘If then, you are risen with Christ; seek those things that are above’. We have to develop an attitude that thinks positively and with optimism because Christ has triumphed and we have to become people of thanksgiving – who not only celebrate the Eucharist on a Sunday but who live it every day. We have to become people who live for others and who seek the spiritual treasure – then truly we shall be an Easter people – we shall be blessed.
So as we wish one another a fruitful season of Lent, Let us also foresee a Happy Easter, and be happy!
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