"The Church unites herself every year, during the forty days of Great Lent, to the Mystery of Jesus in the desert." Catechism of the Catholic Church, 540.
The meaning of Lent comes from the Latin "quadragesima", a liturgical period of forty days reserved for the preparation of Easter. Forty days in allusion to the 40 years that the people of Israel spent in the wilderness with Moses and the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public life.
This is a preparation and conversion time to participate in the culminating moment of our liturgy, together with the whole Catholic Church, which on Wednesday we began with enthusiasm.
In the Catechism, the Church proposes to follow the example of Christ in his desert retreat, in preparation for the Easter solemnities.. It is a particularly appropriate time for spiritual exercisesthe liturgies penitential, penitential pilgrimages as a sign of penitence, voluntary deprivations such as the fasting and the almsand the Christian communication of goods by means of charitable and missionary works.
This effort of conversion is the movement of the contrite heart, attracted and moved by the grace to to respond to the merciful love of God who has loved us first.
"We cannot consider this Lent as just another season, a cyclical repetition of the liturgical season. This moment is unique; it is a divine help to be welcomed. Jesus passes by our side and expects from us - today, now - a great change". It is Christ Who Passes By, No. 59.
The imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful, Ash Wednesday, is the beginning of this road. It constitutes a invitation to conversion and penance. It is an invitation to go through the Lenten season as a more conscious and intense immersion in the paschal mystery of Jesus, in his death and resurrection, through participation in the Eucharist and in the life of charity.
The time of Lent ends on Holy Thursdaybefore Mass in coena Domini (the Lord's Supper), which begins the Easter Triduum, Good Friday and Glory Saturday.
During these days we look inside ourselves and we assimilate the mystery of the Lord being tempted in the desert by Satan and his going up to Jerusalem for his Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension to the Heavens.
We remember that we must convert and believe in the Gospel and that we are dust, sinful men, creatures and not God.
"What better way to begin Lent? We renew faith, hope, charity. This is the source of the spirit of penance, of the desire for purification. Lent is not only an occasion to intensify our external practices of mortification: if we were to think that it is only that, we would miss its deep meaning in the Christian life, because these external acts are - I repeat - the fruit of faith, hope and love". Christ Is Passing By, No. 57.
Lent can be experienced through the sacrament of Confession, prayer and positive attitudes.
Catholics we prepare for the key events of the Holy Week through the pillars of the prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These guide us in our daily reflection on our own life while we strive to deepen our relationship with God and with our neighborno matter what part of the world the neighbor lives in. Lent is a time of personal and spiritual growth, a time to look outward and inward. It is a time of mercy.
As a time of penitence, Lent is a season of it is a good time to go to confession. It is not obligatory, nor is there any Church mandate to do so, but it fits very well with the words of the Gospel that the priest repeats on Ash Wednesday.Remember that dust you are and to dust you shall return" o "Convert and believe in the Gospel".
In these holy words there is a common element: the conversion. And this is only possible with repentance and a change of life.. Therefore, confession during Lent is a practical way of ask God's forgiveness for our sins and start over again.. The ideal way to begin this exercise of introspection is by means of a examination of conscience.
Penance, the Latin translation of the Greek word "metanoia" which in the Bible means the conversion of the sinner. Designates an entire all the interior and exterior acts aimed at the reparation of the committed sinand the resulting state of affairs for the sinner. Literally change of life, it is said of the act of the sinner who returns to God after having been far from Him, or of the unbeliever who attains faith.
Converting is reconciliation with GodWe are to turn away from evil in order to establish friendship with the Creator. Once in grace, after confession and what it implies, we must set out to change from within everything that does not please God.
To concretize the desire for conversion, it is possible to do the following conversion workssuch as, for example: Attending the sacramentsto overcome divisions, to forgive and to grow in a fraternal spirit; practicing the Works of Mercy.
The Church invites its faithful to observance of the precept of fasting and abstinence of flesh, compendium of Catechism 432.
The fasting consists of eating only one meal a day, although it is possible to eat a little less than usual in the morning and evening. Except in case of illness. It invites to live the fast, to all the adults, until they are fifty-nine years old. Both on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
It is called abstinence to abstain from eating meat on Fridays of Lent. The abstinence can begin from the age of fourteen.
Care should be taken not to live fasting or abstinence as a minimum, but as a concrete way in which our Holy Mother Church helps us to grow in the true spirit of penance and joy.
Proposed calendar of resolutions to live Lent.
"Dear brothers and sisters:
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke agree in relating the episode of the Transfiguration of Jesus. In this event we see the response that the Lord gave to his disciples when they showed incomprehension towards him. In fact, a short time before, there had been a real confrontation between the Master and Simon Peter, who, after professing his faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, rejected his proclamation of the passion and the cross. Jesus reprimanded him forcefully: "Get thee behind me, Satan! Thou art a stumbling block to me, for thy thoughts are not the thoughts of God, but of men.Mt 16,23). And "six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart" (Mt 17,1).
The Gospel of the Transfiguration is proclaimed every year on the second Sunday of Lent. In fact, during this liturgical season the Lord takes us to himself and leads us to a secluded place. Even when our daily commitments oblige us to remain where we usually are, living an often repetitive and sometimes boring daily life, we are still in the same place where we usually are. Lent we are invited to "climb a high mountain" together with Jesus, to live with the holy People of God a special experience of ascesis.
Lenten asceticism is a commitment, always animated by grace, to overcome our lack of faith and our resistance to follow Jesus on the way of the cross. It was precisely what Peter and the other disciples needed. To deepen our knowledge of the Master, to fully understand and accept the mystery of divine salvation, realized in the total gift of self out of love, we must allow ourselves to be led by him to a desert and elevated place, distancing ourselves from mediocrity and vanity. It is necessary to set out on a journey, a journey uphill, which requires effort, sacrifice and concentration, like a mountain hike. These requirements are also important for the synodal journey that we, as Church, have committed ourselves to undertake. It will do us good to reflect on this relationship between Lenten asceticism and the synodal experience.
In the "retreat" on Mount Tabor, Jesus took with him three disciples, chosen to be witnesses of a unique event. He wanted this experience of grace not to be solitary, but shared, as is, after all, our whole life of faith. We must follow Jesus together. And together, as a pilgrim Church in time, we live the liturgical year and, in it, Lent, walking with those whom the Lord has placed at our side as companions on the journey. Analogous to the ascent of Jesus and his disciples to Mount Tabor, we can affirm that our Lenten journey is "synodal" because we walk together on the same path, disciples of the one Master. We know, in fact, that he himself is the Way And so, both in the liturgical journey and in that of the Synod, the Church does nothing but enter ever more fully and profoundly into the mystery of Christ the Savior.
And we come to the culminating moment. The Gospel says that Jesus "was transfigured before them: his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light" (Mt 17,2). Here is the "summit," the goal of the journey. At the end of the ascent, while they were on the top of the mountain with Jesus, the three disciples were granted the grace of seeing him in his glory, resplendent with supernatural light. A light that did not come from without, but radiated from Himself. The divine beauty of this vision was incomparably greater than any effort the disciples could have made to climb Tabor. As in any demanding mountain hike, as one ascends it is necessary to keep one's eyes fixed on the path; but the marvelous panorama that is revealed at the end amazes and makes it worthwhile. Even the synodal process often seems an arduous journey, which can sometimes discourage us. But what awaits us at the end is undoubtedly something wonderful and surprising, which will help us to better understand the will of God and our mission at the service of his Kingdom.
The experience of the disciples on Mount Tabor was further enriched when, next to the transfigured Jesus, Moses and Elijah appeared, respectively personifying the Law and the Prophets (cf. Mt 17,3). The newness of Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and of the promises; it is inseparable from God's history with his people and reveals its profound meaning. Similarly, the synodal journey is rooted in the tradition of the Church and, at the same time, open to newness. Tradition is a source of inspiration for seeking new paths, avoiding the opposite temptations of immobility and improvised experimentation.
The ascetical Lenten journey, like the synodal journey, has as its goal a personal and ecclesial transfiguration. A transformation that, in both cases, finds its model in that of Jesus and is realized through the grace of his paschal mystery. So that this transfiguration can be realized in us this year, I would like to propose two "paths" to follow in order to ascend together with Jesus and reach the goal with him.
The first refers to the imperative that God the Father addressed to the disciples on Tabor, as they contemplated Jesus transfigured. The voice that was heard from the cloud said, "Listen to him" (Mt 17,5). Therefore, the first indication is very clear: listen to Jesus. Lent is a time of grace to the extent that we listen to the One who speaks to us. And how does He speak to us? First of all, in the Word of God, which the Church offers us in the liturgy. Let us not let it fall on deaf ears. If we cannot always participate in the Mass, let us meditate on the daily biblical readings, even with the help of the Internet. In addition to speaking to us in the Scriptures, the Lord speaks to us through our brothers and sisters, especially in the faces and stories of those who need help. But I would also like to add another aspect that is very important in the synodal process: listening to Christ also involves listening to our brothers and sisters in the Church; this reciprocal listening, which in some phases is the main objective, and which, in any case, is always indispensable in the method and style of a synodal Church.
Hearing the voice of the Father, "the disciples fell on their faces to the ground, filled with fear. Jesus came to them and, touching them, said to them, 'Rise, do not be afraid.' When they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus alone" (Mt 17,6-8). Here is the second indication for this Lent: not to take refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events, of suggestive experiences, for fear of facing reality with its daily struggles, its difficulties and its contradictions. The light that Jesus shows to his disciples is a foretaste of the Easter glory and we must go towards it, following "Him alone". Lent is oriented towards Easter. The "retreat" is not an end in itself, but prepares us to live the passion and the cross with faith, hope and love, in order to reach the resurrection. In the same way, the synodal journey should not make us believe in the illusion that we have arrived when God grants us the grace of some strong experiences of communion. There too the Lord repeats to us: "Arise, do not be afraid. Let us go down to the plain and may the grace we have experienced sustain us to be artisans of synodality in the ordinary life of our communities.
Dear brothers and sisters, may the Holy Spirit to encourage us during this Lenten season in our climb with Jesus, so that we may experience his divine radiance and so, strengthened in faith, we may go forward together on the way with him, the glory of his people and the light of the nations". Pope Francis, 2023.
Prayer with an open heart is the best preparation for Easter. We can read and reflect on the Gospel, we can pray the Via Crusis. We can turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and follow the liturgical celebrations with the Roman Missal. The important thing is that we encounter the unconditional love that is Christ.
Lord Jesus, with your Cross and
Resurrection you have made us
free. During this Lent,
lead us by your Holy Spirit to
living more faithfully in freedom
Christian. Through prayer,
increase in charity and the
disciplines of this Time
sacred, bring us closer to You.
Purify my intentions
heart so that all my
Lenten practices are for
your praise and glory. Grant that
by our words and actions,
we can be faithful messengers
of the Gospel message to a
world in need of the
hope of your mercy.