Monday, April 10, 2017

The Lenten Season

The Lenten Season
By: Yoly C. Abad

We are presently in the season of Lent.  It started on Ash Wednesday when the priest and other ministers imposed ashes in the form of a cross on our forehead and said “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”  It commenced our 40-day preparation towards Easter.  It is forty because the number forty symbolizes the different salvific events in the Bible.  Sundays in Lent are not counted because each Sunday is regarded a mini-Easter.  We are most familiar with the forty-day and forty-night fasting of Jesus in the wilderness, endured Satan’s temptation and prepared to start his public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11).  The word “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencten”, which means “spring”.  Since the word Lent means spring, or springtime, it likewise symbolizes change – letting go of our sinful ways and moving towards self-conversion.  The ashes imposed on our forehead signify humility and repentance.  During the season, we focus more on our relationship with the Lord as we contemplate our pilgrimage towards salvation.
The Lenten season is regarded as the biggest celebration during the entire year.  Predominantly Catholic, we Filipinos are highly esteemed to be deeply pious.  Despite the reverent atmosphere, we tend to highlight the season with activities or festivities showcasing Filipino religious devotions and unwaning centuries-old traditions which may continue even in future generations.  Observance of lent in our country is tinted with deep faith and galore more than anywhere else in the world
In recent years, however, because of the advent of technology and for other reasons, we witness an increasing number of people rushing to pack their bags gearing for out-of-town beaches and resorts .  These merrymaking  has replaced the piety of participating in the Pasyon(Passion of Christ in Prayer}, the Visita Iglesia(Church Visits), the Via Crucis(Stations of the Cross) or the Senakulo(Play depicting the life of Christ).  Many have even labored to infuse modifications to make these practices simple and easy.  As a result, the Church is faced with the challenge of celebrating the liturgies in a more creative, dynamic, relevant and meaningful manner in order to lure the Filipino masses especially the young, to participate more actively in this religious rituals.  It also aims to better educate them on the significance of these religious practices in their Catholic faith.
In The Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II, it is stated that, “The two elements which are especially characteristic of Lent – the recalling of baptism or the preparation for it, and penance – should be given emphasis in the liturgy and liturgical catechesis.  It is by means of them that the Church prepare the faithful for the celebration of Easter, while they hear God’s word more frequently and devote more time to prayer.”(no. 106)
The Disciplines of Lent
During the Lenten season, Mother Church calls us to three important spiritual disciplines – Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.  Prayer plugs us to our Creator, the author of salvation and the fountain of grace.  Silence is a precondition to prayer. It is only in silence when we can confront ourselves and assess our spiritual fitness.  Fasting is self-emptying.  It is entering our desert experience.  It is abstaining or totally letting go of our negative passions for the benefit of other people.  Fasting is a powerful discipline because it is only when we are empty that we can accord a bigger room for God in our hearts.  It is said that the more we get closer to God, the more temptations we undergo.  Many of us have experienced this.  It also happened to Jesus.  After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was tempted by Satan.  He got closer to His Father and He resisted the temptation.  Fasting also enabled Jesus to eat the real food and that is to do the will of the Father.  Lent is likewise an opportune time to practice the virtue of sharing.  We can do this by getting out of our comfort zone to do acts of mercy.  Helping the poor is a lifetime calling.
The Church, however, instructs us at the beginning of our Lenten journey towards Easter that before we even think of doing them, let us get ourselves straightened first.  Unlike the Pharisees who did them for a show, let us do them for the right reasons:  “Pray to your Father in secret and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Mt 6:6)  “Hide the fact that you are fasting, and your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Mt 6:18) When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your almsgiving may be secret.”(Mt 6:3-4)
In his 2017 Lenten message entitled “The Word is a gift.  Other persons are a gift”, Pope Francis has again reminded us these three disciplines.  He instructed us to be rooted in the Scriptures and lead a life of Gospel values, let go of the sin that blinds us because of our greed for the things of the world which further hinders us to see the face of Christ in the weak and vulnerable.   He ended his message exhorting the faithful to pray for one another so that, by sharing the victory of Christ , we may open our doors to the weak and the poor.  He said, “Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.”  Let us heed his call!


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