Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Character Of Lent

Ash Wednesday is today. As mentioned on page 5 in Sunday's Gesu Catholic Church bulletin, The Constitution on the Liturgy, of the Second Vatican Council, offered these two concise paragraphs to describe Lent's "twofold character":
The Lenten season has a twofold character: 1) it recalls baptism or prepares for it; 2) it stresses a penitential spirit. By these means especially, Lent readies the faithful for celebrating the paschal mystery after a period of closer attention to the Word of God, and more ardent prayer. In the liturgy itself and in liturgy-centered instructions, these baptismal and penitential themes should be more pronounced. Hence:
  • (a) Wider use is to be made of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy; some elements which belonged to a now-lapsed tradition may be opportunely restored.
  • (b) The same approach holds for the penitential elements. As regards instruction, it is important to impress on the the minds of the faithful not only the social consequences of sin but also the fact that the real essence of the virtue of penance is hatred for sin as an offence against God; the role of the Church in penitential practices is not to be passed over, and the people must be exhorted to pray for sinners.
During Lent, penance should not be only internal and individual but also external and social. The practice of penance should be fostered according to the possibilities of the present day and of a given area, as well as of individual circumstances. Such practice should be encouraged by the authorities mentioned in Article 22 [namely: the Apostolic See, the national conferences of bishops, and as law may determine, the bishop of a diocese].
[Quotation in full of Articles 109-110; taken from The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., General Editor (N.Y.: America Press, 1966).]

Several already-baptized Candidates will enter into full communion with the Catholic Church at Gesu Parish. They, no less than we, can renew our conversion (= from non-baptized to baptized, which is sustained by Eucharist and Catholic living) in an ongoing way, one that is particular to each one's "individual circumstances" within 2007. God bless your Lent!
Top photo (baptismal font in the church of St. Mary Major in Rome) is in the public domain.

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