Time of Lent and reflection on death to open us to the joy of resurrection and life without end
- "Crimes and Punishments". The inevitable extravagances of certain priests in the light of the Paschal Mystery - 12 May 2023
- Time of Lent and reflection on death to open us to the joy of resurrection and life without end - 19 March 2023
- Marcello Stanzione, priest of the Angels, Wednesday, 8 March in Florence in the company of Santa Ildegarda di Bingen - 5 March 2023
TIME OF LENT AND REFLECTION ON DEATH TO OPEN US TO THE JOY OF THE RESURRECTION AND LIFE WITHOUT END
Lent should also be a time for reflection on death. A peaceful reflection, unencumbered by disturbances or fears, worse from the rejection of the very idea of death. Meditate on death, for us Christians, it means thinking and reflecting, with serenity and confidence, to what awaits us after this step: the resurrection to life. Because with Christ the Lord we are all dead and with Him we will all rise again.
— Liturgical ministry —
The general rules for the organization of the liturgical year they sanction and explain:
«The purpose of the time of Lent is to prepare for the celebration of Easter. Indeed, the Lenten liturgy prepares both the catechumens and the faithful for the celebration of the paschal mystery, through the remembrance of baptism and the practice of penance" [cf.. n. 27].
No one can escape the current attraction force of Lent which every year presents itself unchanged in its profound substance, albeit greatly mitigated. Lent remains the spiritually richest and most apostolically fruitful liturgical period of the entire liturgical year: «Here's the time, here is the day of salvation" [II Cor 5,2].
In the speech of 3 March 1965, Pope Paul VI summarized the reasons for the interest of Lent:
«The moral and civil progress to which this recurring and powerful ascetic and spiritual exercise has given impetus and development is incalculable. A reference to what is happening in our day comes to mind; indeed we can remember how, just in the last few years, in accordance with and by virtue of the Lenten discipline, these collections have been promoted, made possible by some penitential sacrifice, which go to alleviate hunger in the world: an abstinence suggested by the spirit of Lent, translates into economic values, and this becomes "bread for hunger in the world", that is, for a multitude of poor people, distant and unknown, who thus enjoy the charity that flows from the Lenten observance ... And what shall we say about the liturgical meaning of Lent? It is the great apprenticeship in the grace of baptism and penance, it is the great fertilizing rain of the Word of God, it is the great preparatory mediation for Easter. At no other time of the year is the spirituality of the Church richer, more moved, more lyrical, more attractive, more beneficial: whoever studies it discovers it as stupendous; whoever experiences it feels human; who lives it, and, goodbye divine».
Lent it has a dual character which we find described in Holy Council in which this tense is spoken of by pointing:
«The double character of the Lenten season which, especially through the memory or preparation for baptism and through penance, it prepares the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery by listening more frequently to the word of God and by dedicating themselves to prayer, is placed in greater evidence both in the liturgy and in liturgical catechesis. Therefore a) the baptismal elements proper to the Lenten liturgy are used more abundantly e, if appropriate, some of them are taken from the previous tradition; b) the same can be said of the penitential elements. As for catechesis then, be inculcated in the hearts of the faithful, together with the social consequences of sin, that characteristic of penance which detests sin as an offense against God; nor forget the Church's part in the penitential action and solicit prayer for sinners" [cf.. n. 109].
For the baptism, the paschal mystery of Christ has become the paschal mystery of the Christian. For by means of baptism we were brought in, vitally grafted and incorporated into Christ and the Church, thus becoming responsible protagonists of the history of salvation that is now taking place in the world. To awaken in us the baptismal conscience the Church, during Lent, following the Gospel of John, he presents the paschal mystery to us through the symbolism of water, of light and life, which results from the three important evangelical episodes of the Samaritan woman, of the man born blind and the resurrection of Lazarus. These are themes specifically suitable for making us rediscover the gradualness of the movement of adherence to Christ. In fact, the Samaritan woman recognized the Messiah as soon as she forgets her physical thirst and admits another one, truer and deeper [cf.. GV 4, 1-42]. The born blind, from the vision of natural light he passes to the supernatural one that saves [cf.. GV 9, 1-40]. Lazarus is brought back to life after Jesus solemnly affirms the need for faith: "Whoever believes in me, even if dead he will live" [cf.. GV 11, 1-53]. These three fundamental elements help us understand the history of salvation eminently linked to these three signs: water, light and life.
Element of Water. It is easy to see a theology of water in Scripture. Given the need to quench their thirst for a nomadic people like Israel, the water becomes the sign of God's providence towards his people, while his deprivation, a punishment. Water is used by the prophets as a sign of the messianic times and the salvation that will come from these times. But the relationship between water and baptism is completely unique: the Spirit hovering over the primordial waters, downpour [cf.. GN 1, 1-2], the Red Sea [cf.. Is 14,15-15,1] I'm, according to the Fathers of the Church, all prefigurations of Baptism.
Element of Light. In ancient times Baptism was called "illumination" and the baptized "illuminated". The relationship between light and baptism is highlighted, as well as from the passage of the man born blind, also from the celebration of the Easter vigil. The symbolism of the candle is all too evident: Christ conquers the darkness. Through baptism we have become children of the light: we must walk as reflectors of the light of the Lord.
Element of Life. It is the culminating aspect of this baptismal catechesis. New life is the primary element in baptism because it is in the very person of Christ. To understand this, one must have a living knowledge of spiritual death, of the impotence to resurrect alone and of the need for divine intervention: "Man, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!» [cf.. GV 11, 1-57]. Until we manage to arouse in us the sense of the need to be saved, i.e. "resurrected", we will have to bitterly get used to living a Christianity that, without its baptismal foundation, it will have nothing paschal. The entire baptismal liturgy consists of a mystery of death and resurrection: the man, to rediscover its true meaning, must necessarily go through a fight in which someone has to die. The deadly force of sin is gradually dampened, won by voluntary mortification, which makes us produce the mystery of Christ's death in us. The one who thus manages to die, through death itself he will know and have life. Lent begins precisely by presenting Christ to us in battle with Satan [cf.. Mt 4, 1-11]; struggle that grows until it reaches death on the cross. But it is precisely in the voluntary and obedient acceptance of death that Christ achieves the victory over death itself and introduces us to the newness of life.
Let us now analyze the penitential character. In the past the penitential discipline of Lent, with its strict practices, it served the Christian as a moment of expiation for sins. The rite of ashes is a clear allusion to this. Public sinners lived in harsh penance for long days. The rigor of fasting touched limits inconceivable for us! Today, albeit with the mitigation of external practices, the need always remains urgent, the duty of penance, as the Lenten liturgy reminds us:
«Let the table be sparing and frugal / sober the tongue and the heart / brothers it's time to listen / the voice of the Spirit" [See. Hymn of praise].
True fasting it is renunciation of what hinders our path towards God and makes our service to God and to our brothers and sisters less generous. Lent must manifest the tension of a penitent people who carry out in themselves the mortifying aspect of the paschal mystery. Our penance draws its reason and meaning from baptism which causes us to die with Christ before rising with him, and relates us to confession, where death dies and life rises again, preparing ourselves for the Eucharist. Penance helps us to see the Christian life in a more unitary conception and to realize that every act we perform is always a manifestation and implementation of the paschal mystery.
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the decree on the Apostolate of the laity, reminds us that with penance and the spontaneous acceptance of the hardships and pains of life, by which we conform ourselves to the suffering Christ, we can reach all men and contribute to their salvation [Apostolate, 16].
Lent it should also be a moment of reflection on death. A peaceful reflection, unencumbered by disturbances or fears, worse from the rejection of the very idea of death. Meditate on death, for us Christians, it means thinking and reflecting, with serenity and confidence, to what awaits us after this step: the resurrection to life. Because with Christ the Lord we are all dead and with Him we will all rise again. This is the heart of the paschal mystery which we encounter throughout the precious period of Lent.
Florence, 18 March 2023
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