"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Wednesday 5 March 2014


my source: Aleteia

“Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.” – St. Ephrem of Syria

Other than professional athletes genuflecting and pointing to the sky after a touchdown, when is the last time you associated manhood with prayer? Honestly, the only time most men pray is when they are in imminent danger or in desperate need of some kind. The rest of the time, they leave praying to the grandmas who attend daily mass.

Yet, this is entirely the wrong attitude. Courageous knights of ages past were not ashamed to kneel in front of the altar, or to dedicate themselves to the service of Jesus and Mary in prayer (check out this post for some knightly spirituality). Real men pray. Let’s talk about why.


Prayer is the breath of the spiritual life. Without it, your soul suffocates and dies. That’s why Jesus and the great saints of the Church were so urgent in their calls for us to pray always and everywhere. St. Paul commanded us to “pray without ceasing.” Jesus taught us to “pray always and not lose heart.”

In fact, prayer is so important that St. Alphonsus Ligori says, “Whoever prays is certainly saved. He who does not is certainly damned.” Let that sink in.

Prayer is so important because, whether or not we realize it, we are essentially beggars before God. Everything we need to be virtuous men has to be given to us. We will never be holy without grace, and there is no other way to obtain grace than through prayer.

Do you need courage? Ask for it. Do you need humility? Ask for it. Do you need to be pure in a world filled with temptation? Ask for it. Are you trying to overcome an explosive temper? Ask for patience. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive— it’s that simple.

Our Lent will be completely wasted if we aren’t praying. Fasting and almsgiving will simply become sources of pride if we aren’t approaching them prayerfully. No matter what else you are planning to do for Lent, prayer should be first on the list.

How to Pray

Maybe you want to build prayer into your Lent as well as your daily life, but you don’t know how. It seems so hard to sit still for even 15 minutes and pray. Even if you manage it, you’re not always sure what to say.

I understand because I struggle with the same problems. Prayer, like anything that is worth doing, is hard. Nevertheless, here are some tips based on the writings of the saints that will help us to pray.

1. Keep it simple - Prayer is paradoxical in that the more you say, the more difficult it is to mean what you say. Keep your prayer simple, and mean every word. The Our Father, the perfect prayer, is seven simple petitions. Many of the early monks would even pray by repeating one word or phrase, such as the name of Jesus. If you spent 5 minutes saying ”Jesus” over and over with love, it would be far more profitable than endlessly reading prayers from a prayer book coldly and mindlessly.

2. Just do it - The saints tell us that the best way to learn to pray is by praying. A distance runner doesn’t begin running ultramarathons over night. He begins with shorter distances and builds over time. So too with prayer. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like you are accomplishing anything, or how many times you try to pray and fail. It doesn’t matter how many distractions you have to fight. We have to keep showing up, day after day or we will never learn to pray. Simply asking like the disciples, “Teach us to pray,” is a great prayer to start with.

3. Intentional time - Monastics through the centuries have had specific hours set aside for prayer. While most of us probably can’t pray seven times a day like they do, we should build prayer into our daily routine. If we don’t, it’s never going to happen. I recommend praying 3 times a day: morning, noon, and night. In the morning, offer your day to God and ask for the graces you need. At noon, renew this offering of your day and ask for help to persevere in virtue. At night, review your day and confess your sins. Ask for forgiveness and give thanks for the blessings you have received. Again, if you aren’t intentional about prayer, it is never going to happen.

4. Acknowledge the need - A lot of us don’t pray because we are self-satisfied. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, we think we have everything we need, and we view prayer as a favor we pay to God. That’s why we don’t want to do it. In reality, though, we are like the blind beggar Bartimaeus in the Gospels, completely helpless and needy. Like him, we should recognize our helplessness, and call out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” We should examine ourselves and spend some time recognizing our own weaknesses. Not only will this make us more humble, it will inspire us to call for help— which is one of the best ways to begin praying.

5. Patience – If you’re expecting to become a great mystic like St. John of the Cross overnight, you’re delusional. Even if you are praying for something specific, like a virtue or a temporal need, God hardly ever answers us immediately. If he did, we’d start to think of him as a heavenly vending machine, dispensing our every desire when we press the right buttons. No, God wants us to be patient and persevere in prayer. Like the widow in Scripture who harassed the judge until he granted her desire, harass God in a good way, asking for what you need until you get it.


Volumes have been written about prayer, and I’m just scratching the surface in this post. The point is, prayer isn’t optional. You’re going to waste your Lent— and your life— if you aren’t praying. Get serious about it and make it a part of your daily life starting this Lent. It’s the way to virtue, holiness, and communion with our Heavenly Father.

What are your greatest struggles in prayer? How are you planning to pray more this Lent?

Courtesy of The Catholic Gentleman

Please click on THE REALITY OF HELL an  Orthodox contribution

The Holy Forty Day Fast

By Sergei V. Bulgakov

The most ancient Christian writers unanimously testify that the Holy Forty Day Fast was established by the apostles in imitation of the forty-day fast of Moses (Exodus 34), Elijah (3 Kings 19), and mainly by the example of Jesus Christ fasting for forty days (Mt. 4: 2). Ancient Christians have observed the time of the Holy Forty Days as the season of the commemoration of the Suffering of the Savior on the Cross, anticipating the days of this commemoration, so that, strongly imitating His self-renunciation and His self-denial, these ascetical feats would show the living participation and love on the part of the Savior, who suffers for the world, and that before all this to be morally cleansed for the time of the solemn commemoration of the passion of Christ and His glorious resurrection. The very name of the Holy Forty Days is met rather frequently in the most ancient written monuments with the indication of the purpose of its establishment. "Do not neglect the Forty Days", wrote St. Ignatius the God-bearer in his epistle to Philippians: "for it establishes the imitation of the life in Christ". St. Ambrose of Milan spoke even more clearly: "The Lord has blessed us with the Forty Day Fast. He created it for your salvation to teach us to fast not in words only, but also by example". Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa assert that the Holy Forty Day Fast existed everywhere during their time. According to the Apostolic Canons (Canon 69) the Holy Forty Day Fast is considered obligatory and its observance is protected by strict punishment. St. Hippolytus (3rd century) serves as the indisputable witness of the antiquity of this fast and the paschal cycle traced to his see, containing the instruction from antiquity of the custom to stop the Holy Forty Days Fast on Sundays. On the basis of all traditions of the Holy Apostles, our Holy Church, on behalf of its representatives, fathers and teachers, always considered the Holy Forty Day Fast an apostolic establishment. Yet the Blessed Jerome on behalf of all Christians in his time said: "We fast for the Forty Days according to the apostolic tradition". St. Cyril of Alexandria repeatedly reminds us in his writings, that it is necessary to piously observe the Holy Forty Day Fast, according to the apostolic and gospel traditions. The Holy Forty Day Fast, continuing for forty days, was not observed however in the ancient Church at one and the same time, because that depends on the non-uniform number of the days of the fast and the days on which it was decided. Beginning from the Third, even from the Second Century, the Holy Fathers gave clear testimonies that the Holy Forty Day Fast depended upon forty days. St. Irenaeus wrote that Christians fasted for 40 days. Origen also confirms this in the Third Century. In the Fourth Century the eastern churches established the present order of the Holy Forty Day Fast from Monday after Cheese Fare Sunday until Great Saturday, understanding that this number includes Passion Week in the fast. The Holy Fathers: Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, Blessed Augustine, etc., all agree that the Holy Forty Days is a fast for forty days, and all see it as the common establishment of the Holy Church. The fast of the Holy Forty Days is called Great, not only because of the number of days but also because of its special significance and its value for the Orthodox Christian.

"The more days of the fast", teaches the blessed Augustine, "the better the healing. The longer the abstention, the more bountiful is the salvation. God, the Physician of our souls, established the proper time for the pious to give praise, for the sinners to pray, for the ones to seek rest, for others to ask forgiveness. The time of the Holy Forty Days is proper, neither too short for giving praise, nor too long for seeking mercy. Holy and saving is the course of the Holy Forty Days by which the sinner is led through repentance in charity, and the pious to rest. During its days the Deity is mainly propitious, needs are filled, piety is rewarded".

According to the teaching of St. Asterius of Amasea, the Holy Forty Day Fast is "a teacher of temperance, the mother of virtue, the educator of the children of God, the guide through chaos, the serenity of souls, the staff of life, lasting and serene peace. Its strictness and importance calms the passions, dampens anger and fury, cools and calms all kinds of excitement, and slakes the appetite". "The holy fathers", teaches St. John Chrysostom, "appointed forty days of fast in order that during these days the people, having been carefully cleansed through prayer, fasting and confession of sins, will approach holy communion with a pure conscience".

According to the teaching of the Ven. Dorotheus, "God has given these holy days (the Forty Holy Days) so that those who will try, with attention and wise humility, to take care of themselves and repent their sins, will be cleansed of the sins which were made during the whole year. Then their souls will be released from the burden, and in such a way cleansed will attain the holy day of the Resurrection and without condemnation to receive the Holy Mysteries, having become a new person through repentance in this holy fast".

The Divine Services of Great Lent, on the one hand, presents to us the continuous prompting to fast and repent, and on the other hand, describes also the very condition of the soul, repenting and crying over sins. This general content of the Great Lent Divine Services also fully impacts his external image.

The Holy Church lays aside any pomp in the Divine Service. Before all she does not perform the most solemn Christian Divine Service, that is, the full Liturgy on the days of Great Lent, excluding Saturdays and Sundays. Instead she celebrates the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesdays and Fridays (Laod. 19, Trullo 52). The Holy Church changes the structure of the other church services in accordance with time. She almost stops singing as an expression of the joyful condition of spirit, and gives preference to reading. She also changes the choice of the readings themselves according to the season. Thus, the Holy Church deprives the faithful of the joyful proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, and offers readings from the Old Testament word of God. She uses the Psalter especially widely, which mainly induces a prayerful and repentant spirit. The entire Psalter is read twice each week. The terrible speech of the Prophet Isaiah is also read, accusing the lawless and encouraging the hope of repentance. The pericopes in which the creation and the fall of man as described in the book of Genesis are read, and on the one hand, the awful displays of the wrath of God on the impious are described, and on the other hand, His mercy on the righteous. Finally, lessons from the book of Proverbs are read, where the Wisdom of God calls us to true enlightenment, teaches us about heavenly wisdom. In all the church services the Holy Church leads us to the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, that God take away from us the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk, and that He grant us the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. Also frequently repeated is the prayer of repentance of David: "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me", and the appeal of the reasonable thief: "Remember me, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy heavenly Kingdom". All Divine Services of Great Lent are done quietly, slowly and with the greatest reverence. Few candles are lit in the candle stands, the Royal Doors are rarely opened, the bells are seldom and minimally rung, those present in the temple are called to prostrate to the ground frequently, and to kneel often. By the appearance, the setting and the external character of the Divine Service, the Holy Church teaches us that there should not be a place for joy and pomp, but only humility and sorrow, and lamentation for our sins in the internal temple of our repenting soul. Finally, the Holy Church connects the daily church services, the third, the sixth, and the ninth hours with Vespers to indicate the length of time for the daily fast. Generally, the Holy Church with parental care wisely directs all of us to observe strict abstention from food, to devote all time "of the soul-pleasing Holy Forty Days" and the cares of our salvation to God, to be released whenever possible from the usual earthly cares and occupations, everyday efforts and entertainments, to give a rather larger part than ever of our time for self-examination, moral self-correction, divine thoughts and to the Divine Services of the church. That we use this time, as the most convenient one for the cleansing of all sins, laying as a heavy burden on our souls and darkening the Divine image in us, through the Sacrament of Repentance, and then, already with a cleansed conscience, unite ourselves with the Lord, the Source of all joy, happiness and eternal salvation, through the Sacrament of Holy Communion. That, finally, having worthily "completed the soul-pleasing Holy Forty Day Fast", in peace with God, with our neighbor and with our conscience, brightly and joyfully, with a pure soul and an open heart, wewill meet "the Holy Week" of the Passion of Christ and "the light of His Resurrection".

The paradigm of the observance of the Holy Forty Day Fast was determined from of old. Ancient Christians observed this lent with special strictness, abstaining even from the taste of water until the 9th hour (3 p.m. in the afternoon). They ate after the ninth hour of the day, using bread and vegetables and abstaining from meat and wine, and also cheese and eggs, even on Saturdays and Sundays. The exceptions to this order were only supposed in extreme need.

The strict keeping of the fast weakened on Saturdays and Sundays and on the feast of the Annunciation (when it came in the Holy Forty Day Fast) on which it is necessary to serve a full Liturgy, but it was not weakened when the feasts in honor of the saints fell on the weekdays of the Holy Forty Day Fast, likewise when the same feasts were celebrated on Saturdays and Sundays. The present Ustav (Rubrics, Typicon) commands:

"The strong may persevere fasting up to Friday". "On the first day of the first week (Monday) it is by any means not necessary to eat, and the same way in the second. On Wednesday after the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the meal is placed, and we eat warm bread, and for food warm vegetables. Warm water with honey is given also. To keep the fast on the two days of the first week, the weaker eat bread and kvass after Vespers on Tuesday. The same applies to the elderly." The Holy Mountain Typicon commands not to eat food at all on the first day. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday one may eat one liter of bread and water, and nothing else, unless salt is needed with the bread. On Saturdays and Sundays olive oil and wine is permitted". In the other weeks, except for Saturdays and Sundays, we eat dry foods (xerophagy). Wine and olive oil is authorized on February 24, March 9, and on the day of the reading of the Great Canon on Great Thursday. "We do not eat any fish during all the Holy Forty Day Fast, except for the feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos and Palm (Flower-bearing) Sunday". On Lazarus Saturday it is permitted to eat caviar, but not fish.


by Dom Gueranger

We may be sure, that a season, so sacred as this of Lent, is rich in mysteries. The Church has made it a time of recollection and penance, in preparation for the greatest of all her Feasts; she would, therefore, bring into it everything that could excite the faith of her children, and encourage them to go through the arduous work of atonement for their sins. During Septuagesima, we had the number Seventy, which reminded us of those seventy years’ captivity in Babylon, after which, God’s chosen people, being purified from idolatry, was to return to Jerusalem and celebrate the Pasch. It is the number Forty that the Church now brings before us: - a number, as Saint Jerome observes, which denotes punishment and affliction [In Ezechiel, cap. xxix].

Let us remember the forty days and forty nights of the Deluge (Gen. vii. 12), sent by God in his anger, when he repented that he had made man, and destroyed the whole human race, with the exception of one family. Let us consider how the Hebrew people, in punishment for their ingratitude, wandered forty years in the desert, before they were permitted to enter the Promised Land [Num. xiv. 33]. Let us listen to our God commanding the Prophet Ezechiel to lie forty days on his right side, as a figure of the siege, which was to bring destruction on Jerusalem [Ezech. iv. 6].

There are two, in the Old Testament, who represent, in their own persons, the two manifestations of God: Moses, who typifies the Law; and Elias, who is the figure of the Prophets. Both of these are permitted to approach God, - the first on Sinai [Exod. xxiv. 18], the second on Horeb [3 Kings, xix. 8], - but both of them have to prepare for the great favour by an expiatory fast of forty days.

With these mysterious facts before us, we can understand why it was, that the Son of God, having become Man for our salvation, and wishing to subject himself to the pain of fasting, chose the number of Forty Days. The institution of Lent is thus brought before us with everything that can impress the mind with its solemn character, and with its power of appeasing God and purifying our souls. Let us, there fore, look beyond the little world which surrounds us, and see how the whole Christian universe is, at this very time, offering this Forty Days’ penance as a sacrifice of propitiation to the offended Majesty of God; and let us hope, that, as in the case of the Ninivites, he will mercifully accept this year’s offering of our atonement, and pardon us our sins.

The number of our days of Lent is, then, a holy mystery: let us, now, learn from the Liturgy, in what light the Church views her Children during these Forty Days. She considers them as an immense army, fighting, day and night, against their Spiritual enemies. We remember how, on Ash Wednesday, she calls Lent a Christian Warefare. Yes, - in order that we may have that newness of life, which will make us worthy to sing once more our Alleluia, - we must conquer our three enemies the devil, the flesh, and the world. We are fellow combatants with our Jesus, for He, too, submits to the triple temptation, suggested to him by Satan in person. Therefore, we must have on our armour, and watch unceasingly. And whereas it is of the utmost importance that our hearts be spirited and brave, - the Church gives us a war-song of heaven’s own making, which can fire even cowards with hope of victory and confidence in God’s help: it is the Ninetieth Psalm [Ps. Qui habitat in adjutorio, in the Office of Compline]. She inserts the whole of it in the Mass of the First Sunday of Lent, and, every day, introduces several of its verses in the Ferial Office.

She there tells us to rely on the protection, wherewith our Heavenly Father covers us, as with a shield [Scuto circumdabit to veritas ejus. Office of None.]; to hope under the shelter of his wings [Et sub pennis ejus sperabis. Sext.]; to have confidence in him, for that he will deliver us from the snare of the hunter [Ipse liberavit me de laqueo venantium. Tierce.], who had robbed us of the holy liberty of the children of God; to rely upon the succour of the Holy Angels, who are our Brothers, to whom our Lord hath given charge that they keep us in all our ways [Angelis suis mandavit de te, ut custodiant te in omnibus viis tuis. Lauds and Vespers.], and who, when our Jesus permitted Satan to tempt him, were the adoring witnesses of his combat, and approached him, after his victory, proffering to him their service and homage. Let us get well into us these sentiments wherewith the Church would have us be inspired; and, during our six weeks’ campaign, let us often repeat this admirable Canticle, which so fully describes what the Soldiers of Christ should be and feel in this season of the great spiritual warfare.

But the Church is not satisfied with thus animating us to the contest with our enemies; - she would also have our minds engrossed with thoughts of deepest import; and for this end, she puts before us three great subjects, which she will gradually unfold to us between this and the great Easter Solemnity. Let us be all attention to these soul-stirring and instructive lessons.

And firstly, there is the conspiracy of the Jews against our Redeemer. It will be brought before us in its whole history, from its first formation to its final consummation on the great Friday, when we shall behold the Son of God hanging on the Wood of the Cross. The infamous workings of the synagogue will be brought before us so regularly, that we shall be able to follow the plot in all its details. We shall be inflamed with love for the august Victim, whose meekness, wisdom, and dignity, bespeak a God. The divine drama, which began in the cave of Bethlehem, is to close on Calvary; we may assist at it, by meditating on the passages of the Gospel read to us, by the Church, during these days of Lent.

The second of the subjects offered to us, for our instruction, requires that we should remember how the Feast of Easter is to be the day of new birth for our Catechumens; and how, in the early ages of the Church, Lent was the immediate and solemn preparation given to the candidates for Baptism. The holy Liturgy of the present season retains much of the instruction she used to give to the Catechumens; and as we listen to her magnificent Lessons from both the Old and the New Testament, whereby she completed their initiation, we ought to think with gratitude on how we were not required to wait years before being made Children of God, but were mercifully admitted to Baptism, even in our Infancy. We shall be led to pray for those new Catechumens, who this very year, in far distant countries, are receiving instructions from their zealous Missioners, and are looking forward, as did the postulants of the primitive Church, to that grand Feast of our Saviour’s victory over Death, when they are to be cleansed in the Waters of Baptism and receive from the contact a flew being, - regeneration.

Thirdly, we must remember how, formerly, the public Penitents, who had been separated, on Ash Wednesday, from the assembly of the Faithful, were the object of the Church’s maternal solicitude during the whole Forty Days of Lent, and were to be admitted to Reconciliation on Maundy Thursday, if their repentance were such as to merit this public forgiveness. We shall have the admirable course of instructions, which were originally designed for these Penitents, and which the Liturgy, faithful as she ever is to such traditions, still retains for our sakes. As we read these sublime passages of the Scripture, we shall naturally think upon our own sins, and on what easy terms they were pardoned us; whereas, had we lived in other times, we should have probably been put through the ordeal of a public and severe penance. This will excite us to fervour, for we shall remember, that, whatever changes the indulgence of the Church may lead her to make in her discipline, the justice of our God is ever the same. We shall find in all this an additional motive for offering to his Divine Majesty the sacrifice of a contrite heart, and we shall go through our penances with that cheerful eagerness, which the conviction of our deserving much severer ones always brings with it.

In order to keep up the character of mournfulness and austerity which is so well-suited to Lent, the Church, for many centuries, admitted very few Feasts into this portion of her year, inasmuch as there is always joy, where there is even a spiritual Feast. In the 4th century, we have the Council of Laodicea forbidding, in its fifty-first canon, the keeping a Feast or commemoration of any Saint, during Lent, excepting on the Saturdays or Sundays [Labbe, Concil., tom. i.]. The Greek Church rigidly maintained this point of Lenten Discipline; nor was it till many centuries after the Council of Laodicea that she made an exception for the 25th of March, on which day she now keeps the Feast of our Lady’s Annunciation.

The Church of Rome maintained this same discipline, at least in principle; but she admitted the Feast of the Annunciation at a very early period, and somewhat later, the Feast of the Apostle St. Matthias, on the 24th of February. During the last few centuries, she has admitted several other Feasts into that portion of her general Calendar which coincides with Lent; still, she observes a certain restriction, out of respect for the ancient practice.

The reason of the Church of Rome being less severe on this point of excluding the Saints’ Feasts during Lent, is, that the Christians of the West have never looked upon the celebration of a Feast as incompatible with fasting; the Greeks, on the contrary, believe that the two are irreconcilable, and as a consequence of this principle, never observe Saturday as a fasting-day, because they always keep it as a Solemnity, though they make Holy Saturday an exception, and fast upon it. For the same reason, they do not fast upon the Annunciation.

This strange idea gave rise, in or about the 7th century, to a custom which is peculiar to the Greek Church. It is called the Mass of the Presanctified, that is to say, consecrated in a previous Sacrifice. On each Sunday of Lent, the Priest consecrates six Hosts, one of which he receives in that Mass; but the remaining five are reserved for a simple Communion, which is made on each of the five following days, without the Holy Sacrifice being offered. The Latin Church practises this rite only once in the year, that is, on Good Friday, and this in commemoration of a sublime mystery, which we will explain in its proper place.

This custom of the Greek Church was evidently suggested by the 49th Canon of the Council of Laodicea, which forbids the offering the Bread of sacrifice during Lent, excepting on the Saturdays and Sundays [Labbe, Concil., tom. i.]. The Greeks, some centuries later on, concluded from this Canon, that the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice was incompatible with fasting; and we learn from the Controversy they had, in the 9th century, with the Legate Humbert [Centra Nicetam., tom. iv.], that the Mass of the Presanctified, (which has no other authority to rest on save a Canon of the famous Council in Trullo [Can. 52. Labbe, Concil. tom. vi.] held in 692,) was justified by the Greeks on this absurd plea, - that the Communion of the Body and Blood of our Lord broke the Lenten Fast.

The Greeks celebrate this rite in the evening, after Vespers, and the Priest alone communicates, as is done now in the Roman Liturgy on Good Friday. But for many centuries, they have made an exception for the Annunciation; they interrupt the Lenten fast on this Feast, they celebrate Mass, and the Faithful are allowed to receive Holy Communion.

The Canon of the Council of Laodicea was probably never received in the Western Church. If the suspension of the Holy Sacrifice during Lent was ever practised in Rome, it was only on the Thursdays; and even that custom was abandoned in the 8th century, as we learn from Anastasius the Librarian, who tells us that Pope St. Gregory the Second, desiring to complete the Roman Sacramentary, added Masses for the Thursdays of the first five weeks of Lent [Anastas. In Gregorio II]. It is difficult to assign the reason of this interruption of the Mass on Thursdays in the Roman Church, or of the like custom observed by the Church of Milan on the Fridays of Lent. The explanations we have found in different authors are not satisfactory. As far as Milan is concerned, we are inclined to think, that not satisfied with the mere adoption of the Roman usage of not celebrating Mass on Good Friday, the Ambrosian Church extended the rite to all the Fridays of Lent.

After thus briefly alluding to these details, we must close our present Chapter by a few words on the holy rites, which are now observed, during Lent, in our Western Churches. We have explained several of these in our “Septuagesima.” [See their explanation in the volume for Septuagesima]. The suspension of the Alleluia; the purple vestments; the laying aside the deacon’s Dalmatic, and the subdeacon’s Tunic; the omission of the two joyful canticles, - the Gloria in excelsis, and the Te Deum; the substitution of the mournful Tract for the Alleluia verse in the Mass; the Benedicamus Domino instead of the Ite, Missa est; the additional Prayer said over the people after the Post-communion Collects on Ferial Days ; the saying the Vesper Office before mid-day, excepting on the Sundays; - all these are familiar to our readers. We have only now to mention, in addition, the genuflections prescribed for the conclusion of all the Hours of the Divine Office on Ferias, and the rubric which bids the Choir to kneel, on those same Days, during the Canon of the Mass.

There were other ceremonies peculiar to the season of Lent, which were observed in the Churches of the West, but which have now, for many centuries, fallen into general disuse; we say general, because they are still partially kept up in some places. Of these rites, the most imposing was that of putting up a large veil between the Choir and the Altar, so that neither clergy nor people could look upon the Holy Mysteries celebrated within the Sanctuary. This veil - which was called the Curtain, and, generally speaking, was of a purple colour - was a symbol of the penance to which the sinner ought to subject himself, in order to merit the sight of that Divine Majesty, before whose face he had committed so many outrages. It signified, moreover, the humiliations endured by our Redeemer, who was a stumbling-block to the proud Synagogue. But, as a veil that is suddenly drawn aside, these humiliations were to give way, and be changed into the glories of the Resurrection [Honorius of Autun. Gemma animae. Lib. iii. cap. lxvi.]. Among other places where this rite is still observed, we may mention the Metropolitan Church of Paris, Notre Dame.

It was the custom also, in many Churches, to veil the Crucifix and the Statues of the Saints as soon as Lent began; in order to excite the Faithful to a livelier sense of penance, they were deprived of the consolation which the sight of these holy Images always brings to the soul. But this custom, which is still retained in some places, was less general than the more expressive one used in the Roman Church, and which we will explain in our next volume, - we mean the veiling the Crucifix and Statues only in Passion Time.

We learn from the Ceremonials of the Middle Ages, that, during Lent, and particularly on the Wednesdays and Fridays, processions used frequently to be made from one Church to another. In Monasteries, these Processions were made in the Cloister, and barefooted [Martène. De antiquis Eccles ritibus. Tom. iii. cap. xviii.]. This custom was suggested by the practice of Rome, where there is a Station for every day of Lent, and which, for many centuries, began by a procession to the Stational Church.

Lastly, - the Church has always been in the habit of adding to her prayers during the Season of Lent. Her present discipline is, that, on Ferias, in Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, (which are not exempted by a custom to the contrary,) the following additions are to be made to the Canonical Hours: on Mondays, the Office of the Dead; on Wednesday, the Gradual Psalms; and on Fridays, the Penitential Psalms. In some Churches, during the Middle-Ages, the whole Psaltery was added each week of Lent to the usual Office [Martène. De antiquis Eccles ritibus. Tom. iii. cap. xviii.].

The Bright Sadness of Lent
Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 7:39 AM
James M. Kushiner

For Christians observing the penitential season of Lent, a “bright sadness” can be found in the knowledge and experience of the confident joy that is theirs whenever they are blessed with the grace of repentance, even the “gift of tears,” from the Holy Spirit. The sadness comes from knowing how far we still fall short of the glory of God and the recognition of the sinfulness that infects so much of our daily activity in what may seem to be small ways: absence of humility, self-centered responses, judging others, continual satisfaction of carnal appetites that go beyond physical needs, pretty much unbroken forgetfulness of God, except when we need something from Him, complaining that negates any small amount of thanksgiving we manage to remember to give. “Pray without ceasing,” writes the Apostle Paul, and “Give thanks in everything.” Count others as better than yourselves. Love one another. Do good to your enemies. Forgive all. These are the marks of the Christian. We do fall short, so repentance is in order pretty much for the rest of our lives.
But the brightness comes in realizing that we, though sick, are under the care of the Great Physician who is merciful beyond measure and loves us more than we know. Taking our medicine, seeking His solicitude, grace, and healing balm, should be a joy to us. If not, it’s only because we haven’t yet caught up with the fact that our true life is hidden in Christ, and not with the passing things of this world. If the world has a stranglehold on our affections, we cannot love Christ as we ought. We will not be grateful as we ought. We will not be joyful as we ought. And so we will be something other than what He created us to be. As dirty mirrors, we will not reflect the light of Christ, but rather more darkness of our own making.
Lent, then, or anytime of repentance, is the walk back from the pigsties of our personal “far countries,” where we feed on mere food and pleasure, in diminishing returns, to the house of the Father, who always, always, seems to meet us more than halfway down the road.
Here is one text that reflects more brightness than sadness, from the Matins (morning prayer) of the Orthodox Church on the Monday of the First Week of Lent:
Let us joyfully begin the all-hallowed season of abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage. So, clothed in raiment of light, let us hasten to the Holy Resurrection on the third day, that shines upon the world with the glory of eternal life.

Ash Wednesday 2014

            In a few moments’ time, ashes will be blessed and place on our heads as a sign of repentance and conversion and as a pledge of the acts of penance we will practise this year. It’s the traditional way in which we begin Lent in the Western Church. The prayer of blessing takes its theme from those well-known words from the book of the Prophet Ezequiel, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?” (Ez. 18:23) God does not desire the death of the wicked, but that we repent and live. It’s strange and upsetting how some Christians seem to hate sinners, when God loves them, and fail to recognise that we are all sinners in one way or another. In fact, as St John teaches us in the words of Jesus, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16) Lent, then, is a time, “a favourable time”, for us to take stock of our sinfulness and, through God’s grace and mercy, find that healing remedy that will bring us to new life in Christ as we prepare for Easter and the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of our salvation.

            The prayer also speaks of “a steadfast observance of Lent”. We probably don’t need reminding that we often give up too easily on our Lenten observances, that it doesn’t take long before we forget what we had proposed doing. That’s because we tend to think in a negative way about what we need to give up rather than positively about what we could take on. In this the advice of St Bernard is helpful. He writes, “ Sorrow for sin is indeed necessary, but it should not involve endless self-preoccupation. You should dwell also on the glad remembrance of the loving kindness of God.” Lent is not only a time to say sorry, above all it is a time to give thanks to God for his mercy and love. We should also be careful as to what we intend doing or giving up. On the First Sunday of Lent, St Jerome had this to say to his congregation, “If you have fasted for two days, do not for this reason think yourself better than those who have not. You fast and perhaps become angry; another eats, but perhaps exercises kindness.” We all need to check our passions, indeed keep them in check, and Lent is a good time to begin again. Fasting in the Christian tradition, of course, was meant to do just that. The purpose of fasting was not to become obsessive about food, even less about losing weight, but rather it is a control over our wayward passions and vices, pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony and lust. It should encourage in us the God-like virtues that are their opposite. Fasting also goes hand in hand with almsgiving and prayer.

            As we begin Lent we ask God to pardon our sins and grant us newness of life, to recreate his image within us that we may grow into the likeness of Christ, his Risen Son. I wish you all a happy and holy Lent. May the good Lord be pleased to bless us all with the abundance of his grace. Amen.

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