Warm Southern Breeze

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Ash Wednesday, Triduum & Lent

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lent is a particularly sacred time of the liturgical year because it marks the beginning of the time of Christ’s suffering before His crucifixion  – which, of course, leads to His resurrection, which is a time of, and cause for rejoicing!

This year, I have decided to sacrifice coffee during Lent. We sacrifice things in our lives as a reminder that we are to mortify our flesh, which also serves as a reminder to more fully devote our lives to Christ, Who was the Agnus Dei – the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

Perhaps this year, you may make a good effort to confess your sins, return to your roots, and worship the one true God in spirit and in truth, Who also loves us all without condition, and freely welcomes all, and love your neighbor as yourself.

I hope this shared entry may prove useful.

Plan to make a good Lent this year

Lent is a penitential season, a time to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). The season lasts for 40 days, the same amount of time Jesus spent in prayer and fasting in the desert.

The liturgical color is violet or purple, the symbol of repentance and sorrow for sin. Sin is real and, over the course of the year, spiritual slippage normally occurs. Our sins can become more frequent or grow more serious. Lent is a time to re-examine our lives, acknowledge how we have offended God and neighbor, admit our failings, seek God’s forgiveness, receive God’s healing grace, reform our lives, conform ourselves to God’s will and make headway in virtue and holiness.

Following regulations

One way to make a good Lent is to observe the two Lenten regulations:  abstinence and fasting.

The abstinence regulation requires all those who have reached their 14th birthday to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all of the Fridays of Lent.

The fasting regulation applies from one’s 18th to 59th birthday.  All those in this age range are to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting means one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not equal the larger one, with no food between meals except beverages.  This obligation does not apply to those with special health conditions or physically demanding work.  Those in doubt should consult a priest or confessor.

Another way to make a good Lent is to observe the four penitential or ascetical practices: prayer, fasting, almsgiving and works of charity.


Prayer is at the top of the list.  Lent offers an opportunity to intensify prayer, to pray more, or better or with a richer variety. There are two main types of prayer: communal-liturgical and individual-private, and both are necessary for a well-balanced prayer life.

Regular communication is key to every quality relationship, and if we hope to be close to God, regular prayer is a must.

» Communal prayer

The cornerstone of communal prayer is the Sunday Mass, and it is the indispensible starting point, whether in Lent or any time of the year.

To have a good Lent, consider adding something to your communal prayer. The highest-rated option is daily Mass, one or two times a week, or possibly every weekday.  Parishes offer a variety of other options: the communal recitation of Morning or Evening Prayer, the rosary, the Stations of the Cross or a parish retreat or mission.

At home, the family can offer prayers together at mealtime, bedtime or any other time when two or more pray together.

» Individual prayer

Jesus frequently went off to pray by himself, and so should we. There are many options: eucharistic adoration; Scripture reading and reflection; a silent or directed retreat, contemplation and meditation; the rosary, the chaplet, litanies, and prayer books; spiritual reading such as the writings or lives of the saints; a prayer journal; singing along with sacred music in the car; or a solitary prayer walk outside.


Fasting is a form of self-denial, one of the most traditional forms of penance. In some circles it is not fashionable to give something up for Lent, with the objection that it is “too negative”; however, self-denial is the path to self-mastery. If we want to have a good Lent, it would be worthwhile to give up some non-essential pleasure like dessert, candy, pop, ice cream, alcohol, tobacco or television for a day or the week.

The foremost form of self-denial is fasting from food, and Jesus demonstrated its importance when he fasted 40 days and nights in the desert (Matthew 4:2), and he presumed that his disciples would do the same (Matthew 6:16,17).

When hunger pangs come, it takes determination to say, “No!” and if we can consistently say “no” to something small like food, with improved self-control it is much more likely that we will be able to say “no” when something bigger like temptation comes our way.


Almsgiving is not the same as stewardship of treasure or sacrificial giving, money shared to support the ministries of the parish and the wider church. Almsgiving is giving over-and-above what is given to the church: money, food or clothing, goods or services that are shared to help the poor and needy.

Almsgiving is penitential, as Scripture says: “Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness” (Tobit 12:8); “Almsgiving expiates every sin” (Tobit 12:9); and “Atone for your misdeeds by kindness to the poor” (Daniel 4:24).

A fine way to make a good Lent would be to make special donations to disaster relief, a food shelf, a soup kitchen, an orphanage or some other charitable agency that cares for the poor or troubled.


Kind deeds are also penitential, because “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).  Plan to do something thoughtful for someone:  extend thanks, offer a compliment, fulfill a promise, listen attentively, run an errand, help with a job, make a phone call, send flowers or a card, be polite, tell a clean joke or visit someone in a hospital or nursing home.

Random acts of kindness are good, but planned ones are better. Acts of love toward a neighbor draw a person away from selfish preoccupation and closer to God.

Making a plan

Lent is a time to break sinful habits that have not received the remedial attention they deserve, implement spiritual upgrades that have been put off for a long time, and break out of a spiritual holding pattern.

Our plan for Lent should be to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

Father Van Sloun is pastor at St. Stephen in Anoka.


What is Lent all about?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In short it is about repentance, forgiveness and baptism. It is one of the most ancient Christian observances recognizing the need to prepare for Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection, the greatest of Christian feasts.

In 325 the Council of Nicea first proposed a 40 day preparation period for Easter. The number 40 has special religious significance for Christians: Moses spent 40 days fasting on Mt. Sinai waiting on God, Elijah walked 40 days to the Mountain of the Lord and most importantly Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days in the desert before he began his ministry.

As is the case with all Christian observances, Lent has changed over time until it took its present form in the Western Church of the 40 days prior to Easter. Originally Lent began on quadragesima (fortieth day) Sunday, but Sundays being feasts were not counted, so in the sixth century Pope St. Gregory the Great moved the first day of Lent to the previous Wednesday to make it a full 40 days.

The first liturgy for Ash Wednesday appeared in the tenth century and in the 11th century Pope Urban II called for the distribution of ashes on that day. Although Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, many Catholics treat it as one and would not think of missing being marked with ashes on the forehead. Originally, ashes were sprinkled on men’s heads and only women received them on the forehead, but the sprinkling for men soon gave way to the forehead. Ashes symbolize the first theme of Lent, repentance. They are the traditional symbol of repentance in the Old and New Testaments.

Forgiveness is the second theme. It is a time to forgive and be forgiven, to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness and be reconciled to him, and unburden ourselves from anger, hurt and resentment by offering the same forgiveness to others. One of the names for the last day before Lent begins is Shrove Tuesday. Shrove is a form of the English word Shrive, which means seeking absolution for your sins in confession in preparation for Lent.

Baptism is the last theme. In Baptism water becomes the symbol of death and the symbol of life. Paul tells us in Romans six that in the waters of Baptism we die with Christ so that we may rise with him to new life. Lent is the traditional final preparation for catechumens preparing for Baptism at the Easter Vigil when they will rise with him to new life.

It is also the time for all to prepare themselves for the renewal of their Baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil.

In his Lenten Message, Pope Benedict XVI writes: “In order to undertake more seriously our journey towards Easter and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord – the most joyous and solemn feast of the entire liturgical year – what could be more appropriate than allowing ourselves to be guided by the Word of God? For this reason, the Church, in the Gospel texts of the Sundays of Lent, leads us to a particularly intense encounter with the Lord, calling us to retrace the steps of Christian initiation: for catechumens, in preparation for receiving the Sacrament of rebirth; for the baptized, in light of the new and decisive steps to be taken in the sequela Christi and a fuller giving of oneself to him.”

The culmination of Lent is the Triduum, the final three days from Holy Thursday to the Easter Vigil. As we prepare for our journey to Easter, led by God’s Holy Word, let us do so in a spirit of repentance and forgiveness as we prepare to renew our Baptismal commitment and rejoice in the triumph of Jesus’ Resurrection.

So, what are you giving up for Lent?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

As children, Lent was the time for giving up something. Candy, ice cream, chocolate and movies were all popular. Of course, television was the ultimate sacrifice. Hopefully as we mature physically and spiritually, Lent takes on a much deeper and richer meaning. But let’s stay for now with the idea of giving up something.

Of course we did not know it as children, but the concept of giving up has ancient roots in the Old Testament and beyond. Those roots are found in the concept of sacrifice. For pagans sacrifice was usually in the context of placating an angry god by offering something of great value. In some cultures ritual sacrifice came to be seen as necessary to save the world from destruction.

Rejecting the pagan idea that sacrifice was some kind of magical act that would temper a god’s anger, the Israelites understood sacrifice as an act of worshiping the God of creation or an act of repentance for violating a boundary established by God in his commandments. In offering a sacrifice, something of great value to the person, was freely given up to the service of God or others.

Parents make great sacrifices for the love of their children; soldiers make great sacrifices for their country. Both are good examples of sacrificing things of great value for the good of others.

The ultimate sacrifice is to freely give up your life for others, as Jesus did in his sacrificial death to repent for the many times that men and women had crossed God’s boundaries by sin. That sacrifice with his Resurrection culminates our Lenten journey in the Triduum from Holy Thursday to Easter.

Sacrifice then in the Judeo-Christian tradition is freely giving up something of real value to God as an act of worship. It shows God’s primacy in our lives. He is number one. Pope Benedict speaks of the “idolatry of goods” which “divests man, making him unhappy, deceiving, and deluding him without fulfilling its promises, since it puts materialistic goods in the place of God, the only source of life.”

Put off buying that new car or new barbecue for the back yard and give that money to God by giving it to the poor through Catholic Charities. We used to call that giving alms. The Pope has something to say about that too: “The practice of almsgiving is a reminder of God’s primacy and turns our attention towards others, so that we may discover how good our Father is, and receive his mercy.”

Now, what are you giving up for Lent?

One Response to “Ash Wednesday, Triduum & Lent”

  1. […] Ash Wednesday, Triduum & Lent (warmsouthernbreeze.wordpress.com) […]


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