As we prepare for lent, it is easy to get carried away finding new and creative lenten practices and forget the simple purpose of this liturgical season. Today, Dr. Sri brings us to the heart of the Catholic tradition of lent and reminds of the three timeless lenten practices that will help us make space in our hearts for God this lent.
Snippet from the Show
“It happened one day I was entering the oratory and I saw a statue representing the wounded Christ.. I felt so keenly how poorly I thank him for those wounds that, it seems to me, that my heart broke… I threw myself down before him with the greatest outpouring of tears.” – St. Teresa of Avila
The word lent points to a type of springtime for the soul. It’s an opportunity for our spiritual life to blossom and for our friendship with Christ to experience new life. Every year it is tempting to find novel ways to experience lent in order to have the most impactful lenten experience. We are often drawn to tailored and personalized lenten practices because they sound unique, and challenging. However, the Church has been celebrating lent for 2,000 years, so it’s important to not lose sight of tradition. It’s not necessary to reinvent the way we experience lent in order to have a deep encounter with God. Ultimately, lent is not about checking off boxes or doing hard things to prove our worth or love to God. Lent is about creating space in our hearts for God.
The tradition of the Church teaches us that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the three basic and timeless lenten practices. Catholics should actually practice these three things throughout the whole year, however during Lent the Church invites us to intensify these practices.
Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving
The idea of fasting during lent dates back to the early Church. Around 100 AD St.Irenaeus was the first to write about a period of fasting to prepare for Easter. St.Irenaeus was discipled by Polycarb, who was discipled by St. John, the beloved disciple. Later on, around 300 AD the early church fathers began writing about specifically fasting for 40 days in imitation of Christ.
The concept of 40 days has a special biblical significance. In the old testament, Moses and Elijah spiritually prepared for 40 days before encountering God on Mount Sinai. Those 40 days allowed Moses and Elijah to prepare their whole hearts to intimately meet God in all his glory. Fasting for 40 days allows us to make space in our hearts to encounter God closely.
The concept of 40 days is also related to the theme of penance and sorrow for our sins. In the days of Noah, flood which lasted 40 days was a way of God reprimanding and purifying humanity for its wicked sinfulness. The Israelites also wandered in the desert for 40 days because of their sinfulness and rebellion against God.
Lent offers us a unique opportunity to express sorrow for our sins and to remember that our sin hurts our neighbor and our Lord. During this season, we must allow our Lord to soften our hearts to the reality of sin and its harmful effects. By contemplating the harm of sin and remembering that it was our sins which pierced our Lord on the cross, we begin to grow contrite hearts that lead us to repentance. We must learn to be mindful of the ways our sins wound us others as well. Lent allows us to enter into the suffering of our Lord because it’s always tempting to take Jesus’ sacrifice for granted.
“It happened one day I was entering the oratory and I saw a statue representing the wounded Christ. I felt so keenly how poorly I thank him for those wounds that it seems to me that my heart broke. I threw myself down before him with the greatest outpouring of tears.”- St. Teresa of Avila
Additionally prayer allows us to strengthen our relationship with God by taking time to get to know him more. If we give God more time, he will give it back.Lastly almsgiving helps us practice detachment and teaches us to trust in God’s providence. Lent is ultimately an invitation to be generous with God and to offer him a sacrificial gift.
- Make a deeper examination of conscience that is centered on God and others rather than yourself. How have we failed to love God and others?
- Express sorrow, and go to confession
- Meditate on Christ’s passion in the Gospels
- Pray with the stations of the cross
- Visit Dr. Sri’s website at www.edwardsri.com and to book online events with Dr. Sri email firstname.lastname@example.org
- No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk Through Christ’s Passion
- Find more of Dr. Sri’s episodes at ascensionpress.com/allthingscatholic
- Ascension is pleased to offer our new and improved online bible study programs and sacramental preparation programs digitally to help you minister with flexibility. Go to ascensionpress.com to view all our offerings.
Meet Your Host: Dr. Edward Sri
Dr. Sri is a theologian and the author of several best-selling books. He holds a doctorate from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. A founding leader of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), Dr. Sri currently serves as its vice president of formation. He appears regularly on EWTN and resides in Colorado with his wife, Elizabeth, and their eight children.
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