Electronic Prayer Book

From Ash Wednesday to 4th Sunday In Lent


Teaching Note

The Sundays leading up to Lent reminded us of the necessity for fallen man to unite himself with the redeeming work of our Saviour by a spirit of penance. Lent, by its fasting and other penitential exercises will enable us to associate ourselves with this work even more closely. No Lent is worthy of the name without a personal effort of self-reformation, of leading a life more in accordance with God’s commands and an attempt by some kind of voluntary self-denial to make reparation for past negligence. But the Church, together with the personal effort which she requires of all of us, her children, sets up in the sight of God the cross of Christ, the Lamb of God who took upon Himself the sins of man and who is the price of our redemption. As Holy Week approaches the thought of the passion becomes increasingly predominant until it occupies our whole attention, but from the very beginning of Lent it is present, for it is in union with the sufferings of Christ that the whole army of Christians begins on the holy “forty days”, setting out for Easter with the glad certitude of sharing in His resurrection.

“Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation. “?” (Epistle of the
1st Sunday in Lent). The Church puts Lent before us in the very same terms that formerly she put it before the catechumens and public penitents who were preparing for the Easter graces of baptism and sacramental reconciliation. For us, as it was for them, Lent should be a long retreat, one in which under the guidance of the Church we are led to the practice of a more perfect Christian life. She shows us the example of Christ and by fasting and penance associates us with his sufferings that we may have a share in His redemption.

We should remember that Lent is not an isolated personal affair of our own. The Church avails herself of the whole of the mystery of redemption. We belong to an immense concourse, a great body in which we are united to the whole of humanity which has been redeemed by Christ. The liturgy of this season does not fail to remind us of it. On Sundays, in the Roman Breviary the lessons from the Old Testament, begun three Sundays before Ash Wednesday to retrace the principal stages of the history of the Jewish people in which are to be found God’s plans for the salvation of the whole human race Esau set aside in favour of Jacob is a “type” not of descent according to the flesh but of choice by grace, henceforth extended to all nations; it is in this way that the elect, the chosen of God, are made. Joseph, sold by his brothers and becoming the saviour of Egypt, is a “type” of Jesus saving the world after being rejected and betrayed by His own.

Moses, delivering his people from slavery and leading them to the Promised Land, is a “type” of a forerunner of Jesus delivering us from the captivity of sin and opening for us the gates of heaven. The Gospels are no less significant: the account of our Lord’s temptation shows us the second Adam, the new head of humanity, at grips with the snares of the devil, but by His divine power treading him underfoot; the parable of the man armed, by one stronger than he, is yet another assertion of Christ’s victory.

That, then, is the meaning of Lent for us: a season of deepening spirituality in union with the whole Church which thus prepares to celebrate the Paschal mystery. Each year, following Christ its Head, the whole Christian people takes up with renewed effort its struggle against evil, against Satan and the sinful man that each one of us bears within himself, in order at Easter to draw new life from the very springs of divine life and to continue its progress towards heaven.