Symbols of Lent and Easter

Lent and Easter have many symbols whose meaning can lead to a deeper appreciation of this holy season. This article contains symbols for every day of Lent until Divine Mercy Sunday. May these reflections bless you! (Note: This page is being developed day by day during 2016 so check daily for the next symbol and reflection. Thank you.

ASHES:

 

Ashes were used in the Old Testament to symbolize humility, death, and repentance. On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, Roman Catholic priests sign the faithful with ashes on their foreheads, with the traditional words, “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you will return.” This is a reminder of God’s creation of the first man Adam from the dust of the earth to which our bodies will return in death. Lent is a time to remind ourselves that our lives do not go on forever. They had a beginning and will have an end—maybe even today. Are we prepared to meet our maker? LORD, You created me. You keep me in being. You will take me to Yourself if I trust in and follow You. Help me to remember that everything in this world is ashes. Only love lasts forever. Amen.

SACKCLOTH:

Sackcloth is a coarse, black cloth which the Jewish people made from goat’s hair. Today it can be made from flax or hemp or other natural fibers to create a rough, woven fabric. The Hebrews wore sackcloth, together with wood ashes, as a sign of mourning or repentance or when praying for certain serious needs. Sackcloth can be worn under one’s clothes as a scapular or vest and can be inexpensively cut from burlap or rough cloth. Sackcloth traditionally figures in Lent as a symbol of repentance from sin. LORD, let me clothe myself in the sackcloth of repentance. My sins irritate my conscience as sackcloth irritates a body. You, Lord, can transform me when I embrace the joy of forgiveness. Lord, give me the grace to exchange the sackcloth of my mourning for the silken robe of joy in my salvation. Amen.

PENANCE:

Penance means conversion, the turning aside from the things of earth and the turning toward the things of God. Penance is what Lent is all about! What is keeping you from turning completely to the Lord? Food? Money? Possessions? A certain person? Your work? Your time? Your pleasure? A habit? Your health? Your house? Your hobby? Ask the Lord to show you the wall between you and His arms. Then make plans to begin deconstruction. LORD, I know I am not totally in Your Will. I know I’m not madly in love with You. Show me what is blocking my access to You. Help me to deconstruct that wall, Lord. Amen.

PRAYING HANDS:

Prayer is necessary for the spiritual life all year through but especially during Lent. How can we change our lives for the good if we do not ask God how best to do it? Prayer keeps us in touch with the Lord and opens our spirits to be docile to His direction. We can do good things if we never pray. But they will never be the best things we could do if we did pray. God has ways we don’t comprehend or foresee. Prayer gives us confidence that the Lord is in charge. LORD, teach me how to pray better, to pray with greater trust, to pray for Your Will to be done, not mine. Make me open to Your promptings and docile to Your lead. Help me to give prayer first place in my life. Amen.

ROCKS:

Rocks are symbols of Lent for many reasons. Jesus foiled satan’s temptation to change rocks into bread before beginning His ministry. Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert which, in Israel, is a rocky, arid region. Jesus called St. Peter the “rock” when He said, “On this rock [Peter] I will build my Church.” Rocks are cold and unyielding. Scripture tells us that we need to exchange our stony hearts for hearts of flesh—in other words, our unfeeling spirit needs to become one that is soft and pliable, able to soothe, comfort, and love others. Amen.

The evangelists identified Jesus as the cornerstone, the foundation of our Faith. A familiar hymn calls God the “Rock of Ages” because He is eternal, never changing, our protecting shelter, and the foundation on which to build our lives. How about making a centerpiece of rocks for your Lenten table? What meditations do they foster? LORD, You are the foundation of my life. Without You, my life is barren, cold, and lifeless, as unyielding as a rock. Soften my hard heart with Your grace. Make it a welcoming dwelling place for Your Spirit.

FASTING:

Fasting is a traditional Lenten practice and a prayer of the body that pulls us away from our own desires and self-satisfaction while making us more receptive to God’s grace and inspirations. When we are hungry, we don’t just think about food. We also think about life. And when we get our minds off ourselves, we are able to hear the tiny whisper of God. Before He began His public ministry, Jesus fasted forty days in the desert. No distractions. No food. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in communion with the First and Third Persons. If Jesus, Who is God made man, fasted so that His humanity might be better subjected to the Divine Will, what about us? LORD, let me concentrate on fasting not so much as to lose weight but as to lose myself in You. Grant me the grace to fast and the graces gained from fasting with the right spirit. Amen.

ALMSGIVING:

Almsgiving is a traditional practice during Lent. Almsgiving refers to giving money or goods to the needy. Jesus assumed that people would give alms because he told them to do it in secret. He did not say, ”IF you give alms.” Rather He said, “WHEN you give alms.” St. Paul admonishes us to be a cheerful giver. St. James tells us that our faith is proved by our almsgiving to the needy. Almsgiving is not an option; it is a necessity for a person who claims to follow Jesus. LORD, open my hand wider so that a bit more of my plenty may escape to help those more in need than I. Amen

WATER:

When we think of water and Lent, we think of Jesus washing the apostles’ feet at the Last Supper. We think of no water in the water fonts at church during the Triduum. We think of water and blood flowing from the pierced side of Jesus at the crucifixion. We think of Naaman, the Syrian, whose leprosy was a symbol of sin. We remember that he had to bathe seven times in the Jordan River in order to become clean. And we remember that Jesus is the Living Water who cleanses us from our sins. Jesus said that He would give us Living Water so that we would never thirst for God again, and He kept that promise by giving us Himself in the Eucharist. We realize that water is necessary for our very lives for without it we cannot live. LORD, you are the Living Water. You are the one who gives life to my soul. Grant that I may immerse myself in this Living Water so that I may become cleansed and whole. Amen.

BREAD:

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.” We receive our Lord under the appearance of bread in the Eucharist. At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Eucharist as He broke bread with the apostles. Easter Bread is a tradition in many European cultures. Its use reminds us of our Lord as the staple of our spiritual lives. Unlike day to day yeast bread, Easter bread is sweet to remind us of the sweetness of the Resurrected Lord. LORD, You are the Bread of Life, the sustenance of my soul. May I receive You reverently in the Eucharist. You are sweetness to my soul. Amen.

PUSSY WILLOW:

Pussy Willlow is a name given to many smaller species of willows and sallows whose catkins in early spring are covered with fine, greyish fur which people have likened to the fur of kittens or “pussies.” These soft, male catkins last about two weeks before leaves begin to emerge and the catkins have disintegrated. Because pussy willows are one of the earliest budding trees in spring, they have become a symbol of Easter. As the soft buds emerge on the barren willow branches, so Christ rose from the barren tomb and brought life out of His death.

LORD, in the barren places of our lives, we need Your soft touch and the hope of new life. Grant that this hope bud in us, Lord. Amen.

WINE:

Wine was used at the Passover meal. At the Last Supper, Jesus blessed the wine and said, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’ (Matthew 26:27-29) ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’ (Luke 22:20) At Holy Mass, the faithful receive the Blood of Christ under the appearance of wine. Making wine from grapes is a long process. Ripe grapes are crushed and the juice fermented. In life, trials that crush us and drain our life from us. Over time, with God’s grace, time heals and transforms what was crushed into a new, life giving vision.

 

LORD, transform the crushing trials of my life into the new wine of praise and hope, all to give You glory. Amen.

SUNRISE:

Pagan religions imagined the sun to be the greatest of gods. In symbolic religious painting and icons, the glory of God is often pictured as a sunrise. Sunrise is a symbol for Easter because tradition tells us that Jesus rose at dawn. Scripture tells us that, early in the morning, the faithful women went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. They found the tomb empty and ran to tell the apostles. A new day was dawning, not only actually but also figuratively. The world was about to experience the SONrise.

LORD, You rose at dawn. You are the dawn of my life. Be my light in the darkness. Be the Glory whom I venerate. You are the Son who gives me warmth all the days of my life. Amen.

HAMMER:

A hammer is a symbol of the crucifixion of Christ because the Roman soldiers used a hammer to pound nails through the hands of the victims. A hammer and nails are often shown with a crown of thorns as a symbol of the Passion. While hammers are tools used for building and repairing, they can also be used for tearing down. When we feel hammered by circumstances, we mean that we feel unrelentingly beaten and battered by life. When life hammers us, we can unite our anguish with that of Jesus.

He offered that pain for us, and He is with us when we are being hammered. “My strength is sufficient for you,” our Lord told St. Paul. May we tap into that strength. LORD, I’ve been hammered in life. That time may be now. You Who endured the hammering of nails into Your hands and feet, have mercy on me. I, too, feel pinned fast to this anguish and unable to escape. Give me Your strength to endure, Lord, and Your grace to emerge stronger from trials. Amen.

BLACK:

Because the color black is traditionally associated with death and mourning, it is also associated with Lent. We remember the blackness of the night in the Garden of Gethsemane and how Jesus’s trial took place before dawn. Black recalls to us our own deaths and the deaths of others and helps us realize the value of life and of light. LORD, You are the God of light and life. Dispel the darkness of sin with the light of Your grace. Redeem the darkness of death by the power of Your Resurrection. Let us live as people of light and joy. Amen.

PRISON:

Authorities believe that Jesus was probably held in prison, at least for a short time, between the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and his appearance before Pilate. A prison is also a symbol of Lent because we are locked in the prison of sin. Jesus paid the ransom for us so that we can be released from this prison. This payment was affected on Calvary where Jesus died for our sins. LORD, I am bound and many prisons: the prisons of sin, opinion, pride, the desire to be accepted. You, alone, Lord, can break the chains that hold me in these prisons. Grant me the grace to turn to you for release. Amen.

WHEAT:

At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Eucharist. The bread that became his Body was made from wheat. Jesus used wheat in a parable when He said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” Jesus used this parable to refer to himself and the death that he was about to undergo. The parable also can refer to us in that we have to die to ourselves so that we can be resurrected to new life in Jesus. Just as all the grains of wheat are crushed to make flour for one loaf, so all of us who follow Christ will, through our sufferings, be united in His Body the Church. LORD, You are the Bread of Life. You give me life through your Passion and death for me. Help me to surrender my life to You. Amen.

STATIONS OF THE CROSS:

The Stations of the Cross is a familiar Lenten devotion. Popularized by St. Leonard of Port Marice in the 1700s, the Stations were actually a popular medieval pilgrimage in the Holy Land where pilgrims prayed at the various places of Christ’s passion beginning with Calvary and ending at Pilate’s house. The Stations were based on Scripture and on popular piety that imagined the falls of Jesus and the wiping of His face by St. Veronica. The Stations are a neditation on the Passion, death, and burial of Jesus Christ. The first Stations of the Cross were made by the Blessed Mother as she accompanied her son on His journey to Calvary and was with His body through the burial. Catholics and others pray the Stations of the Cross, often on Fridays during Lent but many other times as well. LORD, help me to walk with You in Your journey to Calvary. Let me take up my own cross to follow You. Lord Jesus crucified, have mercy on us. Amen.

CROSS:

The cross is a symbol of Lent and Easter for obvious reasons. It is the torture device upon which Christ, our Savior and Lord, died in reparation for our sins. As such, it was an aberration of the original symbol of two intersecting lines crossing in the center. The cross as a symbol has been widely used since the dawn of civilization. Its most ancient form seems to be the “gamma” cross which is known by its Sanskrit name of swastika. The cross symbol seems to derive from the use of two sticks at right angles which, when rapidly rubbed together, create sparks for fire. The cross thus became a sacred symbol, used to symbolize fire and light. LORD, You hung upon the cross as our Living Flame, extinguished for love of us. Grant that we may burn with a spark of love for You. Amen.

CRUCIFIX:

The crucifix is the cross with Jesus crucified on it. The crucifix is particularly a Catholic symbol and sacramental that reminds us of Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice. In a Catholic home, every room should have a crucifix. This is so that, wherever we are, we are reminded of five truths. 1. We are creatures of a God who loves us. 2. God is perfect and cannot coexist with sin. 3. We are sinners. 4. God loved us so much that He became man to take upon Himself our sins and the punishment for them. 5. That punishment was the crucifixion of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made man. If we meditate upon these five truths, we will begin to understand the depth of God’s love and the extent to which God was willing to go so that we, so deeply loved, could have eternal happiness and live forever.

LORD, how much You love me! I can never understand the depth of Your love. I can only accept it and try, in my feeble way, to return it to You in my service to You and to others. Give me the grace, Lord, to give a good return. Amen.

CLASPED HANDS

(praying hands): Praying hands are a common symbol of Lent and prayer in general. In popular depictions of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see His hands clasped in prayer. Lent is a time to practice additional prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. Prayer takes four forms: intercession, adoration, thanksgiving, and praise. It is an interesting discipline to try to employ each of these types of prayer in any particular prayer session. LORD, help me to pray more and better. May my prayers be united with those of the saints and angels, and may they be heard by You. Amen

OPEN HANDS:

Open hands are welcoming hands, ready to give and ready to receive. We come before God with open hands, to receive what He wants to give us and then to return it to others. Open hands symbolize the spirit of Lent. We come before God in fasting and prayer, receptive to His Spirit. Then we go out into the world, giving freely our alms of time and money to those in need. LORD, give me a spirit of openness to You and to Your gifts. Let me return to others what You have given to me. Amen

NESTS:

Nests are a symbol of spring and of Easter. Birds build nests from cast-off feathers, mud, dried grass, and twigs. They take what is dead and lifeless and skillfully fashion secure places for their eggs in which new life will grow and eventually burst forth. Nests are symbols of the tomb from which we will all rise on the last day as Christ showed us when He rose from the tomb on Easter. LORD, grant me the assurance to know that I am in Your nest and will someday break forth and enter eternal life. Amen.

BIRDS:

Birds, particularly robins, bluebirds, sparrows, and other songbirds, are Easter symbols. They are hatched from eggs, reminding us that Jesus broke through a hard tomb to reappear from death on Easter Sunday. They ascend from the ground to the sky, symbolizing the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. They praise God with their beautiful songs that fill the air and delight the ear. After the drab days of winter, the colorful songbirds bring a welcome change of beauty and life. LORD, let me break through the shell that confines me so that I may sing Your praises. Lift my soul to You in joyful song. May my life bring joy to others. Amen.

EASTER EGGS:

Easter eggs are eggs colored with the colors of spring. They remind us that, as new life grows in and emerges from an egg, so, too, did Jesus rise from the tomb. So, too, we also must rise from our spiritual tombs of dejection, defeat, and hopelessness. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Do we embrace the new life in Him? LORD, let me look to You for hope. You are the model to follow and the goal to keep before me. You are with me on the journey of life. Grant me the grace to break through the walls that confine me to myself and keep me from fully loving you and fully serving others in Your Name. Amen.

EASTER STRAW:

Easter straw is colorful strips of plastic that resemble straw. Easter straw suggests a birds’ nest. Birds construct their nests from dried grass and twigs. The Easter straw reminds us that, in the dried up places of our lives where nothing seems to be alive, we can make a nesting place for the Holy Spirit to come to hatch new life within us. Easter straw is a sign of hope where no hope seems reasonable. God can birth goodness even when it is nested in dryness. LORD, You are the great miracle worker. In the dead, dry places of my life, come and make a nesting place to birth new life in me. Amen.

NEW CLOTHES:

in many cultures, getting a new outfit or a new set of clothes is part of the Easter tradition. The new clothing is a symbol of many religious truths. First, we are to be clothed anew with our faith in the risen Lord. Secondly, a change of clothing indicates a change of heart. We put off the old man, so to speak, and put on the new. New clothes also indicate a new beginning. Through the resurrection of Christ, the law of the Old Testament was fulfilled in the new law of love initiated by Jesus. LORD, help me to put off my old way of living and to put on the new way of living and faith in You, Lord. Amen.

EASTER BONNET:

Easter bonnets were popular years ago, and songs still are sung about them. The Easter bonnet was part of the new clothing worn at Easter time. But because the bonnet was worn on the head, it indicated that our mindset needed to be turned toward the new way of life that Christ was teaching us. And that way was beautiful and fresh, filled with the flowers of virtue and holiness, just as the Easter bonnet was covered with flowers. LORD, turn my mind toward You and the joys of heaven. Adorn me with the virtues that I need to spend eternity with you. Amen.

MORTIFICATION:

Mortifications are physical acts of sacrifice, made out of love of God and to control our human nature that so often runs amok. Mortifications include fasting from food and drink, and disciplines such as praying on one’s knees for a lengthy time, wearing less desirable clothing, and sleeping less. One should not undertake extreme mortifications, unless he or she has consulted a spiritual director about them. Nevertheless, we can all practice some degree of mortification by getting up a little earlier to pray or by eating less at our meals. These are mortifications of which the Church approves. LORD, grant me the grace to discover the mortifications that I should do for love of You. Then grant me the grace to do them. Amen.

HOT CROSS BUNS:

Hot cross buns are a Lenten tradition, often eaten at Mardi Gras before Lent begins. Hot cross buns are sweet, soft yeast rolls, most often dotted with raisins or citron, and adorned with a cross of frosting. The cross reminds us of the bitteness of Lent and of Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross. The sweetness reminds us that the suffering was sweet in that it led to our redemption. LORD, may I follow You in Your suffering and passion so that I may taste the sweetness of eternity with You. Amen.

PRETZEL:

The bread from which pretzels are made was the Christian Lenten bread from the fourth century on, when Christians kept a strict Lenten fast of no milk, no butter, no cheese, no eggs, no cream and no meat. The faithful made small breads of water, flour and salt, rolled them into lengths, and shaped them into crossed arms to remind themselves of prayer (praying with arms crossed across the chest was common). They called the breads "little arms" (bracellae). From this Latin word, the Germanic people later coined the term "pretzel." LORD, may I spend much time in prayer and penance and may my Lent be fruitful. Amen.

GOLD:

Gold represents the Easter dawn which saw the Resurrection of Christ. It also represents Christ as King of the Universe. The most precious of metals, gold aptly represents our Risen Lord for the evidence of our eternal life in Him is precious to our faith. Gold is resistant to corrosion just as Christ’s body was resistant to corruption. LORD, You are more precious than everything precious in the world. You are not my possession. Instead, grant me the grace to be Your possession forever. Amen.

PURPLE:

Purple is a Lenten color. Priests’ vestments for penitential seasons (both Lent and Advent) are purple. For centuries, purple had been the color worn by royalty. Purple during penitential seasons reminds us that we are doing penance in honor of the Great King Who humbled Himself to come to earth, to live among us as a human being, and to die for our sins so that we, His creatures, might be granted eternal life with Him. What greater King could we possibly desire? LORD, You are my King, my God, my All. Make me a loyal and worthy subject who serves You well. Amen.

RED:

Red is the color of blood and, hence, of martyrdom. Because Christ shed His blood for us during His Passion and Crucifixion, red is an appropriate Lenten color.  At the Last Supper, Jesus also gave us His Precious Blood under the form of consecrated wine. At each Mass, wine is consecrated and the Precious Blood again received. LORD, may the Blood of Your Only Son cleanse us all from sin as He promised. May our souls be purified and whitened through the saving action of our Lord’s death. Amen.

WHITE:

White is the symbolic color of purity, radiance, innocence. Scripture says that the Blood of Christ cleanses us from sin and makes our souls white as snow. At the Transfiguration, Jesus’s clothes appeared whiter and brighter than any substance on earth can make them. White is the wool of the lambs slain in sacrifice at Passover. Jesus is the totally pure, totally sinless Lamb of God, Who voluntarily relinquished His life to save ours. White is the pure color of dawn as the sun rises, reminding us of Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning. LORD, make my soul white with purity and restore my innocence through the sacrificial death of Your Son. Clothe me with the virtues I need in order to receive this grace. Amen.

LILY:

Tradition has it that Easter lilies grew in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ’s passion, springing up where Christ’s bloody sweat had fallen to the ground. The lily is a symbol of purity and is associated with the Virgin Mary. In early paintings of the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel offers to Mary a branch of pure white lilies as he asks her to be the mother of Jesus. While this symbol is generally taken to indicate the purity of the Blessed Virgin, the lilies could also be a symbol of the purity, innocence, and beauty of Jesus whom she would be receiving into her womb. Mary’s acceptance of the lily indicates her acceptance of Jesus. Jesus mentioned lilies in his Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet... Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." The Easter lily is a majestic lily in the shape of a trumpet which reminds us of the triumphal resurrection of Christ. The lily also has six pedals which are arranged in two sets of three, a reminder of the Trinity. LORD, grant me purity of life and restore my innocence. Grant me hope in the resurrection so that I may live eternally with you. Amen

NAILS:

Christ was nailed to the cross on Calvary. Often people will meditate on a nail on Good Friday, sometimes tying it with a red ribbon to signify the Blood which Christ shed for us. Nails are used for construction and, in God’s irony, the Roman centurion executioners, when nailing Jesus to the cross, unknowingly constructed for the faithful an eternal dwelling in heaven, established for believers through the Master Architect Who was nailed to the cross. LORD, dying for You is difficult and painful, yet You call me to death to my own self so that I may live eternally with You. As I am fastened to the cross I now bear, grant me the grace to unite my sufferings with those of Jesus so that You may sanctify me through those trials. Amen.

FISH:

A fish is a symbol of Lent because all Fridays during Lent are meatless days. In medieval times, meat was not eaten at all during Lent. Early Christians used a fish as a symbol of Christ because the letters of the Greek word for fish (ichthus) formed the first letters of the phrase “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.” I is the first letter of the Greek word for Jesus. CH is the first letter of the Greek word Christos (anointed). TH is the first letter of the Greek word for “God’s.” Y (U) is the first letter of the Greek word for “Son.” S is the first letter of the Greek word for “Savior.”  After the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus told Peter, James, and John, “From now on, you will be catching men.” So each Christian is symbolically one of those fish caught in God’s net and hauled into the Kingdom. LORD, You are my God and my All. Catch me in Your net and take me home. Amen.

LAMB:

A lamb is a traditional symbol of Easter. The Jewish people celebrated Passover with the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb. This was in memory of the first Passover when God required the sacrifice of a lamb prior to the deliverance of the Jews from their slavery in Egypt. The blood of the Passover lamb was painted on the doors and lintels of the houses in which the Jewish people lived. The angel of death, who smote the firstborn of the Egyptians, passed over the houses marked with the blood of the lamb, sparing the people within. Thus, trust in the blood of the lamb saved the Jewish people from the plague of death which struck everyone else. Jesus ate the Passover supper, which included the Passover lamb, with His disciples on the night before His crucifixion. Jesus is the true unblemished Lamb whose self-sacrifice through His Blood takes away the sins of the world, thereby saving us from eternal death. LORD, You spared me through the death of Christ, Your Son. Give me faith in His sacrifice for me. May I give Him my life unreservedly and always follow where He leads. Amen.

PALMS:

Just days before His Passion and Death, Jesus, seated on a donkey, entered Jerusalem. By this action, He was publically claiming the title of Messiah. The Jewish people recognized His entry as the culmination of a prophecy about their king, coming to them seated upon the foal of a donkey. Jesus was a well-known, popular, controversial figure. The populace, sure that the Messiah had come to free them from Roman domination, hailed Him as king. Palm branches, at the time of Christ, were symbols of goodness, well-being, and victory.

They were often shown on coins and used in the decoration of important buildings such as the temple. Hailing the anticipated coming victory over the Romans, the people pulled palm branches from the trees and laid the fronds as well as their garments along the path before Christ. They were proclaiming, “You are our King. We lay our lives before You in Your service. We believe that You have the victory.” LORD, we look to victory over sin, not over political powers. We know that You are our King. We lay our lives before You in Your service. We believe that You have the victory. Amen.

PERFUME:

Scripture tells us that six days before the Passover, Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus with fragrant ointment. When she was chastised for wasting money that could’ve been used on the poor, Jesus vindicated her by saying that she had anointed his body for burial. On Passover, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his apostles and then went to his death for our salvation. The fragrance of Easter flowers and of flowery perfumes at this time of year recall the loving sacrifice of Mary of Bethany. LORD, increase my love for you so that it approaches that of Mary of Bethany. Let my works and my prayers be a pleasing fragrance before you, Lord. Amen.

MONEY BAG AND COINS:

A money bag with coins spilling from it symbolizes Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus warned against reliance on money. “You cannot serve God and mammon (money and worldly things)” (Matthew 6:24) and “Beware of greed in all its forms” (Luke 12:15). Judas’ betrayal of Christ is so tragic because he was one of the inner circle, chosen by Christ to be his most trusted followers. Christ’s death came about through betrayal and greed of Judas. It was set in motion by the betrayal and greed of Adam and Eve who took what God forbid them to have in betrayal of their trust in Him and obedience to Him. Jesus died to atone for our sins of betrayal of His message and greed for

our own way of doing things. LORD, have mercy on us. We have sinned against you through greed and betrayal. Grant us the grace to want and to take less and to be obedient and respectful toward You and Your commands. Amen.

CROWN OF THORNS:

After His terrible scourging, Jesus was crowned with thorns, dressed in a purple cloak, and mocked by his tormentors as a wanna-be king of the Jews. These soldiers were so immune to human suffering that they went so far as to take a reed, give it to Jesus as a scepter, and then take it from Him to strike him repeatedly over His head, banging down on the crown of thorns. The crown of thorns was shaped like a cap, not a circular crown as often depicted. It was most likely crafted from a plant called Euphorbia milii which has thorns about 30 mm (1.18 inches) long. We can hardly imagine the humiliation, the scorn, and the pain which Jesus

suffered by being crowned with thorns.  LORD, You suffered pain and humiliation for me. You suffered the scorn of Your tormentors. Today many scorn You while they try to humiliate Your followers. Give me grace to love all those who persecute Christians or others. I pray for their conversion so that they may follow the path of goodness and humility which You lived and showed to us. Amen.

FOOT WASHING:

FOOT WASHING: On Holy Thursday night, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples to show them that they must humble themselves and serve others. He wanted to leave them His example as well as the Eucharist before going to His Passion and death. Foot washing was the job of slaves and servants, not of lords and masters. Jesus demonstrated that those who serve are truly the greatest as they imitate God Who serves us, His creatures. LORD, grant me the humility to serve others even if, in worldly terms, they are socially or politically or morally “below” me. I am the least of Your servants, Lord. Grant me the humility to see myself as I truly am and to live in humble service to others. Amen.

PIETA:

The image of the dead body of Jesus in the arms of His Mother has been depicted numerous times in painting and statuary. If we think of the Blessed Mother’s agony and shock at that moment, we are stunned into silence. What must have been going through her mind? She knew that God had conceived this child in her womb and that God had a plan for Him. Was this death the plan? Jesus had said it was. Now it was here. Was this all? He had seemed confident that “in three days he will rise again.” He had been right about everything else. What did that “rise again” mean? She could hardly think that he would be alive again. But then, Lazarus had been dead four days. Jesus raised him. Hope and grief, questions and certitude, faith and shock had to all be part

of the Blessed Mother’s response as she held on her lap her son whom she had cradled on her lap as a baby. LORD, we ask the intercession of our Blessed Mother in the difficult times of our lives. She was with You from Your conception until Your Resurrection. She was with the apostles as the Church began and grew. She comes into our world with a call to conversion and peace. May this Holy Lady intercede with You on our behalf, today and always. Amen.

CHRYSALIS:

A chrysalis is a butterfly or moth when it is changing from a caterpillar into the adult form of moth or butterfly. Chrysalis is also the name of the hard case that protects the pupa form of the insect as the change takes place. When a caterpillar reaches the full stage of its development, it stops eating and begins to spin a cocoon or secrete a chrysalis around its body. When this is complete, the body of the caterpillar breaks down and the parts begin to be rearranged and reformed into the body of a moth or butterfly. When the new creature is complete, it breaks through the cocoon or chrysalis and emerges as a beautiful winged creature. A chrysalis has traditionally been seen as a symbol of Christ in the tomb. Jesus’ dead body was laid in the tomb and a resurrected body emerged. LORD, I need a transformation and the resurrection. Grant me the courage to completely reorganize my life so that I can become a new creature to Your glory and service. Amen.

BUTTERFLY:

A butterfly, which emerges from a chrysalis, is  symbol of the Christ resurrected. Beautiful, different in appearance from what entered the "tomb" of the chrysalis, able to fly, and short lived, the butterfly reminds us of Christ's resurrected body that could appear where it was not, that retained the wounds of the crucifixion without being pained by them, and that was so transformed that the disciples on the way to Emmaus could not recognize the Lord until He made Himself known in the breaking of the bread. Just as a butterfly is short lived, so Jesus' time on earth between the Resurrection and Ascension was short. We trust in His life eternal with the Father. LORD, resurrect me from my sinfulness and make me a new and beautiful creature to serve You. Amen.

EMPTY TOMB:

The empty tomb is an obvious symbol of Easter because it indicates Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It also indicates our resurrection. Christ’s transformed body shows us that our body, too, will be transformed at the resurrection. His perfected body bore the wounds of the crucifixion, just as our perfected bodies will bear our wounds that we suffered in life, but they will be transformed and made glorious and become instruments of healing for ourselves and for others. The empty tomb is a sign of hope because it shows that life goes on after death but in a transformed and glorious way. LORD, increase my faith in the resurrection, your resurrection, my own, and the resurrection of others.  Lord, let me live with the hope of the resurrection always before me. Amen

HYACINTH:

Hyacinths are beautiful, extremely fragrant spring flowers which are grown from bulbs. Each small blossom on its thick stem resembles a miniature trumpet, and the blossoms are clustered over the entire stem so that one hyacinth stem may contain up to 100 small blossoms. Since trumpets announced the arrival of great personages in the Middle Ages, the hyacinth came to symbolize a massive heavenly triumphal concert proclaiming the arrival of the Resurrected King of Creation. LORD, let my praise be a joyful song to you as I rejoice in Christ Risen and Glorified. Amen.

DAFFODILS:

Daffodils are bright, cheery spring flowers grown from bulbs planted in the autumn. Their sunny yellow and orange color is reminiscent of the sunrise on Easter morn. The trumpet shaped center recalls the triumphal trumpet blast of victory often mentioned in Scripture. Frequently daffodils are blooming at Easter and last several weeks in the Easter season, making them a constant, joyous reminder of the celebration of Our Lord's victory over death.  LORD, may I rejoice in the resurrection of Christ Who, by His Passion and obedience, overcame the finality of death and showed us that the flesh may die but the spirit lasts eternally. May my hope be as constant and as cheery as the daffodils tha herald Easter. Amen.

EASTER BUNNY:

The tradition of the Easter bunny, or Easter hare, seems to be German in origin. Originally the Easter hare played the role of a judge, determining which children were good and which were disobedient, and rewarding the good ones with candy and eggs. Because of the great fertility of rabbits, and because they breed in the spring, they also became symbols of Easter. It was mistakenly thought that rabbits could breed without loss of their virginity, which made them a symbol of the Blessed Mother. Rabbits’ multiple offspring became symbolic of Christians whom Jesus called his brothers and sisters. LORD, I thank You for calling me into Your family. I praise You for the Blessed Mother whom you gave to us at the foot of the cross to be our Mother, too. May she always intercede for her sons and daughters in faith. Amen.

EASTER PIE:

Easter pie is a traditional Easter food in many European cultures. Made in several ways, it can be a sweet dessert with whipped cream and a pudding filling or else it can be a main dish consisting of eggs, cheese, and meat in a crust, similar to a quiche. Easter pie became a tradition to break the medieval Lenten fast of no meat, no eggs, and no dairy products. Depending on the recipe, some or all of these ingredients were used in the Easter pie.  LORD, Your victory over death is the cause of great rejoicing. We shall feast with You eternally in heaven. What graces Your sacrifice has won for us! We can never praise you enough! Amen.

DIVINE MERCY:

The Sunday after Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday. It honors God’s merciful love as requested by Jesus through St. Faustina Kowalska. The image of Jesus as Divine Mercy shows red and white rays coming from His Heart to bathe the world. Jesus explained to Saint Faustina:

The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him (299). By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works (742).

LORD, You are Mercy Itself. How can we know mercy apart from You? Lord, grant that I may seek Your mercy and that I may grant mercy to others who seek it from me. Mercy triumphs over judgment, You said. We praise You for Your Great Mercy that sacrificed Yourself for me. Amen.

© 2016 by The Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN USA 46803   www.penitents.org

 

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