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Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

2012-02-lent-bigMatthew Warner encourages us to give away whatever we save by giving something up for Lent:

Take the money you would have spent on eating out or smoking or whatever it is and…give it away instead. Take the time you would have spent doing those things and instead spend that time in prayer. And rather than thinking about your own struggles the whole time, take a moment in solidarity to think about all those around the world who will never even have the option to “eat out” or to spend too much time on Facebook or to even experience something you may be giving up this Lent.

Try it. We aren’t just sacrificing things this Lent for the sake of removing bad things. We’re sacrificing things so that we can make more room in our lives for God. So yes, remove some things from your life that are less worthy of being there, but make sure you fill that space with something Good. Allow God to fill that space. Prepare to fully receive Him at Easter.

This nicely combines two of the three Lenten requirements: almsgiving and fasting. And if you save yourself some time and use that for prayer you’ve managed all three. Here are a whole heap of Lenten prayers.

Matthew also suggests a good cause to receive what you give, and a Lenten activity to do on Fridays with your family to help them identify with those in need. Here in New Zealand, we might consider adding the cash we save to our Caritas envelopes.

Here’s another thought for helping others while giving up something that you really don’t need. For the last three years, I’ve joined the 40 bags in 40 days crowd. Every Lent, I get rid of at least 40 bags or boxes of stuff that is cluttering our home and our lives. It’s a great discipline, and giving all the still useful bits away to someone that needs them or to a charity that can turn them into cash makes it even better.

Most of us have used Lent to permanently give up a bad habit (or temporarily, like the child who said she’d give up being mean to her brother until after Lent). How about using Lent to take up a good habit? (I’ve promised myself to post on the blog every day except Sunday. Not sure whether that qualifies as a good habit or a bad one!)

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seven deadly sinsThere’s a passage in CS Lewis’s The Great Divorce where one of the ghosts surrenders the red lizard of lust that sits constantly on his shoulder, whispering in his ear. The ghost begs an angel to kill the lizard, although the lizard assures the ghost that his death will mean the death of them both. The lizard dies, and both ghost and lizard are transformed. The ghost becomes a man – a glorious risen spirit – and the lizard is transformed into a stallion, full of beauty and power.

“Do ye understand all this, my Son?” said the Teacher.

“I don’t know about all, Sir,” said I. “Am I right in thinking the Lizard really turned into the Horse?”

“Aye. But it was killed first. Ye’ll not forget that part of the story?”

“I’ll try not to, Sir. But does it mean that everything – everything – that is in us can go on to the Mountains?”

“Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can go on as it now is. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a Lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.”

“But am I to tell them at home that this man’s sensuality proved less of an obstacle than that poor woman’s love for her son? For that was, at any rate, an excess of love.” [The narrator had just observed a ghost begging for the son she had idolised, and for whom she had neglected all other relationships.]

” Ye’ll tell them no such thing,” he replied sternly. “Excess of love, did ye say? There was no excess, there was defect. She loved her son too little, not too much. If she had loved him more there’d be no difficulty. I do not know how her affair will end. But it may well be that at this moment she’s demanding to have him down with her in Hell. That kind is sometimes perfectly ready to plunge the soul they say they love in endless misery if only they can still in some fashion possess it. No, no. Ye must draw another lesson. Ye must ask, if the risen body even of appetite is as grand a horse as ye saw, what would the risen body of maternal love or friendship be?”

In the discipline of Lent – almsgiving, fasting, and prayer – we continue the life-long process of disciplining our natural appetites. I like to think of it as releasing all the energy I’ve put into wrath or sloth so that it can flow down healthy, life-giving channels. I’m going to try to use Lent to reduce my sins, recycle my energy, and reuse my time.

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Shout for all you are worth,
  raise your voice like a trumpet.
Proclaim their faults to my people,
  their sins to the House of Jacob.
They seek me day after day,
  they long to know my ways,
like a nation that wants to act with integrity
  and not ignore the law of its God.
They ask me for laws that are just,
  they long for God to draw near:
‘Why should we fast if you never see it,
  why do penance if you never notice?’
Look, you do business on your fast-days,
  you oppress all your workmen;
look, you quarrel and squabble when you fast
  and strike the poor man with your fist.
Fasting like yours today
  will never make your voice heard on high.
Is that the sort of fast that pleases me,
  a truly penitential day for men?
Hanging your head like a reed,
  lying down on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call fasting,
  a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me
– it is the Lord who speaks –
to break unjust fetters and
  undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
  and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry,
  and shelter the homeless poor,
to clothe the man you see to be naked
  and not turn from your own kin?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
  and your wound be quickly healed over.
Your integrity will go before you
  and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
  call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’
Today’s first Mass reading – a challenge for this penitential season

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Welcome deare feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authoritie,
But is compos’d of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church sayes, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev’ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos’d of love and fear
Begins at home, and layes the burden there,
When doctrines disagree.
He sayes, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandall to the Church, and not
The Church is so to me.

True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
When good is seasonable;
Unlesse Authoritie, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it lesse,
And Power it self disable.

Besides the cleannesse of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulnesse there are sluttish fumes,
Sowre exhalations, and dishonest rheumes,
Revenging the delight.

Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
And goodnesse of the deed.
Neither ought other mens abuse of Lent
Spoil the good use; lest by that argument
We forfeit all our Creed.

It ‘s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Savior’s purity;
Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he.
In both let’s do our best.

Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn, and take me by the hand, and more
May strengthen my decays.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast
As may our faults control:
That ev’ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlor; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.

George Herbert

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Pope Benedict’s address on Ash Wednesday:

Let us understand the appeal the austere rite of ashes addresses to us, one expressed in two formulas: ‘Repent and believe the Gospel’ and ‘You are dust and to dust you shall return’.

“The first is a call to conversion, a word that must be considered in its extraordinary seriousness. The call to conversion, in fact, exposes and denounces the easy superficiality that often characterizes our life. Conversion means to change direction in the path of our life: not, however, a small adjustment, but a real turnaround.

“Conversion is to swim against a current of lifestyle that is superficial, incoherent and illusory, a current that often drag us down, dominates us and makes us slaves of evil or at least prisoners of moral mediocrity. With conversion, instead, we aim for the high standard of Christian life, we entrust ourselves to the living and personal Gospel, which is Jesus. He is the path we all are called to follow in life, allowing ourselves to be enlightened by His light and supported by His strength that moves our feet. Conversion is not simply a moral decision that corrects the way we live, but it is a choice of faith that draws us fully into intimate communion with the living and concrete person of Jesus.

“His person is the final goal, He is the deepest meaning of conversion. Repent and believe the Gospel are not two different or casually combined things, rather they express the same reality. Conversion is the total ‘yes’ of those who surrender their lives to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ who first offers Himself to man as the way, truth and life, as the only one who liberates and saves.

“Repent and believe the Gospel is not only at the beginning of Christian life, but it accompanies us at every stage. Every day is a time of favor and grace. Every day, even when there are difficulties and fatigue, tiredness and falls, even when we are tempted to abandon the path of following Christ and close in on ourselves, in our selfishness, without realizing that we need to open ourselves to the love of God in Christ, to live the same logic of justice and love.

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It is late Saturday afternoon, and it is nearly time for me to close down the computer and spend some time with people in the non-electronic world. In line with the Rules of Blog Engagement (see menu on the right), I don’t blog between 6pm Saturday time and midnight Sunday.  I’ll be back Monday Kiwi time.

Meanwhile, here are some more links to information about Lent.

First, the Holy Father has published his Lenten message, which this year takes justice as its theme:

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent culminates in the Paschal Triduum, in which this year, too, we shall celebrate divine justice – the fullness of charity, gift, salvation. May this penitential season be for every Christian a time of authentic conversion and intense knowledge of the mystery of Christ, who came to fulfill every justice. Read the whole message.

Being Frank and the Pious Sodality of Church Ladies have both posted asking people about their own lenten plans. A range of comments, there.

The Divine Life blog has some suggestions, in three parts: PrayerFasting, and Almsgiving.

Christian Aid UK have resources to use during Lent, including reflections and a calendar.

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