Lenten and Easter Reflections - 2005
The Crucifixion of Christ
by Pietro Lorenzetti
We are in the Garden of Gethsemane, awaiting Christ. Be still, my heart, and wait, for Jesus will come, meek and humble. He will make his entry in simplicity. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches. Sing songs of holy love. Forgive seventy times seven times. Be still, my heart, and wait, for Jesus will come, meek and humble. He will make his entry in simplicity.
By Paloma, a friend of the CFP
10 Good Reasons for Fasting and Doing Penance this Lenten Season
1. In imitation of Christ ;
2. In obedience to Christ;
3. For the reparation for our sins;
4. For the conversion of sinners;
5. To expel evil spirits;
6. To overcome our carnal nature;
7. To join in solidarity with the poor;
8. To foster charity to the poor;
9. To obtain greater interior freedom;
10. To receive special needed graces.
May this Lenten Season be an opportunity for all to grow in Christ. May God bless all of your sacrifices made in His name.
Lent: the Favorable Time
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's Address for Ash Wednesday
LONDON, FEB. 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an address Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor plans to give this Ash Wednesday during vespers in Westminster Cathedral.
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By tradition Lent is a time of giving up and doing without; no sooner are we over the shock of our credit card bills after Christmas, the Church asks us to undertake an annual "holy fast." We live out a penance, like a daily hair shirt constantly pricking us. This is why the 40 days of Lent seem to pass so slowly. Will it never be Easter Day -- when I can take up my daily habit again!
But this is a very grim way to go about Lent. The Church does not intend it to seem interminable; Lent, in a sense, ought to pass like a flash with a sense of desperate urgency. "Here we are, two weeks into the 40 days and how little there is to show for it!" It is a time of intense focus: Lent is a Christian way of expressing the brief life we live here on earth, a life of probation without a moment we can afford to waste.
No wonder St. Paul, in the reading of today, gives us an ultimatum. He says, "We beg you, once again, not to neglect the grace of God that we have received. Now is the favorable time. This is the day of salvation.' Time narrows over the next 40 days, because we become conscious of the bigger drama of life, a drama that ends with death. Ash Wednesday, today, helps us to focus. The ash is put on our foreheads, and the priest says, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return." The space in between is extraordinarily important, because it prepares us for the new life which we celebrate at Easter. And that new life is the path to our eternal salvation.
This sense of dramatic focus is beautifully captured in a passage in the Venerable Bede's "History of the English People":
"Imagine yourself among a group of Anglo-Saxon Nobles discussing the pros and cons of the new Christian Faith. Then one of them comes up with this interpretation of life. "It seems to me that the life of man on earth is like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter's day with your captains and counselors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall. Outside, the storms of winter rain and snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one window of the hall and out through another. While he is inside, the bird is safe from the winter storms, but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. So man appears on earth for a little while -- but of what went before this life, or what follows, we know nothing."
But because Christ was born, died for us and rose from the dead, of what went before this life and of what follows we know a great deal. Our Christian Faith tells us that before this life there is our Eternal God Who lives in unapproachable light, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. After this life, for us, created by God, there is the blessedness of Eternity with God. But where we come from and where we are going to is known to us and it is something for which we hope with all our hearts.
So if people ask me what they should do for Lent, I am inclined to say, on this Ash Wednesday, you should not try to do without something, but to get something done as if your eternal salvation depended on it. If Lent is to mean anything in our lives, it has to be a season of renewal. The word "Lent" itself means "springtime." The idea is that we die with Christ like the seed in the ground and rise with Him to more abundant life. We die to sin and rise to integrity. We die to selfishness and rise to generosity, especially towards the poor.
Whatever penance we do, whatever we choose to give up or do without, should help us to put on these new clothes, and to grow into stronger, healthier Christians. Each one of us should spend more time in prayer during these 40 days; some time in reading a Lenten book about how better to follow Jesus Christ, and some exercise which involves care for others, perhaps a visit to someone less fortunate than we are. What we should give up is whatever stops us doing that extra thing.
As I have said, the word "Lent" means "springtime." There is even a flower, or rather a shrub called "the Lenten Rose." It only flourishes, blossoms, between February and April. You and I have the greater part of February and all of March to flourish and to grow and to live as Christ wants us to live. That is the invitation I make to you. Like St. Paul, I say to you, "I beg you, not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. Now is the favorable time. This is the day of salvation."
PIOUS PRACTICES FOR LENT
Every Lent, Holy Mother The Church advocates certain pious practices that her children should perform to satisfy their requirements to do penance, to pray, to perform good works, to make reparation for their sins, and to further the apostolic work of the Church.These include:
1. Abstinence: Abstinence from meat is required by the Church on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent for all Catholics from ages 14 on.
2. Fasting: Required required by the Church of all those age 18 through 59 on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Only one full meal per day plus 2 small meals that together do not equal the main meal and no solid food between meals.
3. Limit TV watching.
4. Prayer: Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, daily Mass, Stations of the Cross, novenas to end abortion, for world peace, for the souls in Purgatory, intercessory prayer for the needy.
6. Nightly examination of conscience.
7. Watch over one's tongue and words.
8. Spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
10. Spiritual reading.
THE GREATEST GIFT
Long ago I was broken down by the world. I began to follow the crowd and worldly ways. Our Lord sought me out and saved me. He gave me two choices. One was a choice to continue to follow the crowd and choose this: I saw and felt two demons dragging me off to hell. They were charred spirits with burning eyes smelling of burning flesh and chicken feathers boiled in hot tar. The second choice was to live a life of penance. He allowed me to witness his crucifixion and allowed my soul to be cleansed in His blood. I call this my greatest gift.
One morning as I knelt I asked, "Jesus, share with me your love." Jesus shared his passion. As I knelt below his cross, the odor of hot sticky blood dripped on my hands. The blood smeared as I tried to wipe it away. Jesus said," Winnie, don't wipe it away. I want to cleanse you in my love."
The pounding of spikes splintering the wood pounded in my head and ears, penetrating to my heart. I heard the multitude of angry screams from the crowd of people. I felt the agony of Jesus's rejected love penetrate my soul.
I cried as Jesus bent his heard in sorrow, seeing blood dripping from his sweet crowned head. I tried fleeing from the sight, but, I heard Jesus say from the cross," Winnie, wait. I did this because I love you." Jesus's blood which stained my hands has washed away my sins. There rose thunder. Lightening flashed across the sky. Rain poured. Jesus closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and expired.
As I stayed on, I stood and watched them lower Jesus from his cross, and place him in the arms of His weeping mother. I felt over whelmed with grief as they laid him in the tomb.
But wait! It isn't over! Jesus rose from the tomb on the third day. Jesus rose from death and rolled away the stone that blocks our hearts so we might learn to give his love with gentle kindness. We all receive this loving forgiveness when we go to confession and Mass. Penance, the Rule of of 1221, keeps us on the right path.
Winnie Ferguson, friend of the CFP, with the permission of her spiritual director.
UNLEAVENED BREAD FOR HOLY THURSDAY CELEBRATION
On this link is a recipe for unleavened bread to celebrate the Passover Meal on Holy Thursday.
Jesus Risen from the Tomb (painted 1475-79)
by Giovanni Bellini (1426-1516)
Easter Story Cookies
This is a great thing to do with the kids on the evening before Easter.
1c. whole pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
1 c. sugar
Step #1: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Step #2: Place pecans in zipper baggie and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested He was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3.
Step #3: Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 tsp. vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross He was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.
Step #4: Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.
Step #5: Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.
Step #6: So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1c. sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.
Step #7: Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.
Step #8: Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60.
Step #9: Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF.
Step #10: Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read Matthew 27:65-66.
Step #11: GO TO BED! Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were sad when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22.
Step #12: On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! Explain that on the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matthew 28:1-9.
Jelly Bean Prayer
Red is for the blood He gave.
Green is for the grass He made.
Yellow is for the sun so bright.
Orange is for the edge of night.
Black is for the sins that were made.
White is for the grace He gave.
Purple is for the hour of sorrow.
Pink is for the new tomorrow.
A bag full of jelly beans,
Colorful and sweet.
Is a prayer...is a promise...
Is an Easter treat.