February 13, 2018
The Preface I for Lent might take us by surprise. It begins by thanking God for giving us “this gracious gift each year” so that we can prepare for the paschal feasts “with the joy of minds made pure.” This phrase stands in sharp contrast to the images that we tend to associate with Lent: penance, fasting, abstinence, not singing “Al----ia,” and austere looking churches with no flowers. For some, the Lenten season is a bit of a “downer”; they can hardly wait until it is over. Yet, we hear these words—the joy of minds made pure! What, in her wisdom, is the Church asking us to reflect upon today?
As we pray further, the Preface I of Lent provides us with important reasons that might make us joyful. First, we are reminded that this season prepares us for Easter when we will celebrate the paschal feasts with the joy that comes from good preparation. It also indicates that the Lenten season will help us to be “more eagerly intent on prayer and on the works of charity.” Finally, it reminds us that as we recall and participate in the great events that have given us new life in Christ—his life, his suffering and death, and his resurrection—that God will lead us to “the fullness of grace.” Preparation for the feast that renews our minds and hearts! An increased love for God and neighbor! A greater conformation into Christ! Small wonder this is called a joyful season! What more could any Christian ask, then to grow in love and become more Christ-like in identity and in action?
The Constitutions of the Congregation of the Resurrection reminds all Resurrectionists that “our personal participation in the paschal mystery begins with our conversion…but our conversion is a dynamic, lifelong process” (art. 1). While a great reminder to Resurrectionists, this is certainly also the call for all Christians: to constantly die to self in order to rise by the power of the Holy Spirit to a new life of love in Christ. Of course, this may sound easier to read on the web site than to live out in our lives.
The season of Lent is really about coming to trust in God: that when I die to myself as I let go of my time (prayer), my nourishment (fasting), and my money (almsgiving), that I will not meet emptiness and nothingness, but the very presence of God given in loving abundance. It is trusting that God will be enough as I choose not to grasp. It is trusting that God will be enough as I resist my efforts to be god-like in my self-sustaining. It is trusting that God will freely offer what I can only receive when I stand before God not with grasping, but with open hands.