Monday, February 3, 2014

St. Francis Parish Magazine Septuagesima 2014

St. Francis Parish Magazine

Septuagesima 2014

Lent at St. Francis 2014

Having despaired of convincing any of my fellow priests to come during Lent for a second year in a row, my plan this year is to use Fr. Robert Barron’s DVD “Blessings: Three Paths to Holiness.”  A number of us seemed to enjoy his series “Catholicism”. Have no fear, however, there are only six (just the right number for Lenten Fridays) sessions, each lasting 20-25 minutes. The series is described this way:

“Our ultimate goal is to be a saint. It is our greatest calling and what is desired for us by our Creator. Father Robert Barron paints a beautiful and mysterious image of what it takes to be a follower of, “the One who is, Jesus Christ.” He lays out three intriguing paths to holiness: Finding the Center; Knowing You’re A Sinner; and Realizing Your Life is Not About You.”

As in the past, we begin with Stations of the Cross and Benediction at 6:30pm , followed by a meal and presentation.

St. Francis Small Dinner Groups

SUNDAY, February 16th,  5:30 PM

All past participants and everyone interested in being part of the St. Francis Small Dinner Groups are invited to join us.  We will provide the liquid refreshments and ask that you bring an appetizer/finger food.    Most importantly we want you to come and enjoy.  Please come even if it is only for part of the evening.

Everyone is welcome to join the Dinner Groups.  You do NOT have to host or co-host or
 do a lot of cooking - just come and enjoy the fellowship in a fellow parishioner's home. 

The Parish Priest highly recommends the Food, the Friends and the Conversation. 

Septuagesima: 70, 60, 50, Ready, Set, Go!

From about the middle of the 5th century a period of pre-Lenten preparation was kept by the Church in the West. I have been surprised and delighted that a number of other priests have, as we have, revived in their parishes the observance of Septuagesima. The liturgy of the Ordinariate, at least in the UK, has also restored the ‘gesima’ Sundays. I suspect that this revival has been mostly a clerical affair. But in the 5th century  it was lay folks who came up with the idea and the bishops who had reservations. Lay folks have always disliked surprises and this must have been especially so in the days when calendars were not hanging on every refrigerator.

In fact we are still often surprised by Lent. “Is it Lent already!” Septuagesima gives us a chance to dip our toes in the water before we take the plunge: purple vestments, no Gloria in Excelsis, no Alleluia. At the same time there is no fast in this season. But there is time to think about what this Lent should be, what we should do in the way of fasting, praying, almsgiving, what we will take on as well as give up. If we are to take Lent seriously, it cannot be a last minute thing, but something we think about, pray about, plan for and prepare for. Most important of all we should ask the Lord himself what he wants of us this Lent because Lent is his gift to us.

The collects of Septuagesima are reason alone to observe the season. Composed in a period of great distress when the city of Rome was beset on every side by famine, disease and war, they reflect the miseries of an age of chaos and disintegration.

O LORD, we beseech thee favorably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our
Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Justly punished . .  mercifully delivered: that is the proper definition of a Christian, even if we hear little about it these days. “Mercy and truth are met together” says the Psalmist. It is just this that we need to see clearly: the sordid truth about ourselves and at the very same time the marvelous truth of God’s mercy. God’s justice without His mercy can only lead to despair; His mercy without His justice can only render God irrelevant.

O LORD God, who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do; Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The danger is always that we will add a good Lent to the list all our other real or imaginary accomplishments. The ideal of Lent is failure. Not that we should set out to fail but that we will inevitably fail and that because the measure is the Cross, “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” We should come to Holy Week and the Triduum emptied of our self-sufficiency and in need of the salvation which Good Friday and Easter brings.

O LORD, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee. Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.

Whatever particular rule we adopt for Lent. whatever we give up, whatever we take on, it should serve for an increase of love, our love of God, our love of others and also our love of ourselves. Asceticism, disciplines of fasting, abstinence and self-denial are the way we find out what it is we really love and what it is we do not love. Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee.  A matter of life and death.

Fr. Allen

The Theology and Spirituality of Lent

Dr. Lauren Pristas The Collects of the Roman Missals: A Comparative Study of the Sundays in Proper Seasons
before and after the Second Vatican Council
(T & T Clark Studies in Fundamental Liturgy)

Integral to the traditional theology and spirituality of Lent, and of Christian ascesis more generally is an understanding of the intimate relationship  between body and soul in human beings who are composite creatures –who are incarnate spirits.

It is not simply that corporeal ascesis is one of the ways in which Christians  have traditionally expressed their repentance and sought to atone for their sins and those of others. It is also, and more importantly that Christians recognize that freedom for God increases as one becomes
more free from the demands of the body and the pull of worldly attractions.

The body is good, not evil. As a result of the Fall, the body is inclined to rebel against right reason and reason itself has been radically weakened in its natural powers. One of the fruits of physical ascesis undertaken with a proper disposition is that By God’s grace, reason gains greater mastery over the body. Another, again by God’s grace, is that in gaining greater mastery over physical urges we also grow in our ability to control interior inclinations to vice – to anger, pride, and so forth. Lastly physical asceticism such as fasting causes us to experience our human weakness more intensely and this, by God’ grace, makes us more open to God and more reliant upon his grace.

Lemricks  Fantasticemma

Greg Rogers

Behold! Here comes septuagesima
Seventy days, more or lessima
A time to prepare
For a Lenten affair
And hope for one of God’s blessima

Look out, here comes sexagesima
That’s Latin for sixty, I guessima
All penitents must
Consider the dust
And think about making confessima

Here it is now, quinquagesima
Pick out your new Easter dressima
Start dieting soon
Before the full moon
And get something off of your chesima

The Rules for Lent

We do not like rules because we forget that rules not only tell what we must do but they also tell us what we do not have to do.

The current rules of the Western Church are as follows:

Those between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. All 14 years old and older should  abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. The sick are of course exempt from these requirements.

Fasting means partaking of only one full meal. Some food (not equaling another full meal) is permitted at breakfast and around midday or in the evening—depending on when a person chooses to eat the main or full meal.

Abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, milk products or condiments made of animal fat.

Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are not forbidden.

The obligation to do penance is a serious one; the obligation to observe, as a whole or "substantially," the days of penance is also serious. The divine law teaches that each of us in our own way must do penance. We must all turn from sin and make reparation to God for our sins. We must forgive and show love for one another just as we ask for God's love and forgiveness.

Other works and means of doing penance include: prayer, acts of self-denial, almsgiving and works of personal charity. Attending Mass daily or several times a week, praying the rosary, making the way of the cross, attending the parish evening prayer service, teaching the illiterate to read, reading to the blind, helping at a soup kitchen, visiting the sick and shut-ins and giving an overworked mother a break by baby-sitting—all of these can be as demanding as abstaining from meat on Friday.

Making a Lenten Rule

First, attend to the obligations and responsibilities which the Church always asks of you:

1.       Attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
2.      Observe the regular times of abstinence:
abstinence on Fridays and fasting for
one hour before receiving Holy Communion.
3.      Give of your time, money and talent to the Church for the spread of the kingdom.
4.      Examine your conscience on a regular
basis and “go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest, and confess your sins, that you may receive the benefit of absolution, and spiritual counsel and advice; to the removal
of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the strengthening of your faith.” (BCP Exhortation).

5.      Pray daily for the Church and the world.

The ‘extra’ that Lent calls us to is summarized in the Invitation to the Observance of a Holy Lent in the Prayer Book:

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.

Self-examination and Penance: set aside a definite time for self-examination daily; use a form of self-examination from a devotional manual like the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book or from Holy Scripture: The Ten Commandments, The Summary of the Law, The Beatitudes. The only thing that can force you to make a confession is your own conscience but you have to be willing to listen to your conscience and obey it.

Prayer: in many cases it is not so much a matter of praying more but of being faithful and regular in your prayer life.  However, you might want to consider taking on a daily Mass, the only perfect prayer of the Church. The habit of praying Compline at the end of the day unites your prayer with Christians throughout the world. Pray for folks you do not want to pray for.

Fasting: every day in Lent, except Sundays, is a day of abstinence. As the old hymn for Prime has it: “bid us check the pride of sense/ with due and holy abstinence.” Whatever you give up for Lent, you should be able to feel it. It should be inconvenient enough that you notice its absence. Your sacrifice should be hard enough to require effort of will but not so hard that it is completely unrealistic.

Self-denial: This is the psychological equivalent of physical fasting. It involves not getting your way all the time. Talking less, listening more. Enjoying, yes, enjoying not being the center of attention. Worrying less about your reputation and what others think about you. Being content with your life and circumstances.

Reading and Meditating on God’s Holy Word: what this really means is allowing the Holy Scriptures to grab your head and your heart. Obviously you cannot very well do that without also reading the Bible. You might pick one of the Gospels or the Epistles of Paul to read through this Lent. Or you might simply stick the Sunday bulletin into your pocket instead of returning it to the narthex. However you gain access to God’s word, you read with the expectation that God intends to speak to you and, even when what He says in unclear, that gives you the opportunity to think. Christian meditation, unlike eastern meditation, is simply thinking. Read until something grabs your attention, it might be some phrase or event that is surprising or disturbing or simply confusing. Then you stop and think. It may happen that you will soon realize that God is not only speaking to your head but also to your heart. Furthermore, it may happen that you suddenly realize that most important thing is that you are God’s presence. This very simple way of meditating can produce great results in every soul.

Short Lenten Biblical Readings and Prayers for Lent (if all else fails)

Ash Wednesday

"Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God, for gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness."
(Joel 2. 13)

Jesus, I will think of your graciousness and mercy as I begin my Lenten journey. There is no more powerful realization to lead me to continue my change of heart than to remember that you have been rich in kindness to me.


"Choose life, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him."
(Deut. 30.19)

Jesus, when I choose to follow the lead of your grace in the moments of my day, I am choosing life. Then, I will better hear your voice and hold fast to your hand as I go about my day.


"This is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, setting free the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, not turning your back on your own."
(Is. 58. 7-8)

When was the last time my fasting helped my neighbor in a personal way? Jesus, this is what you desire. Let me seek ways this Lent to reach out personally to someone who is oppressed or hungry.


"I have come not to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners."
(Lk. 5.32)

Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I will give thanks that you are calling me to a change of heart during this Lent. I will accept your mercy graciously each day.

1st Sunday of Lent

"Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty day, to be tempted by the devil."
(Lk. 4.1)

Jesus, I am consoled to know that you too were tempted by the devil. I am encouraged by knowing that the Spirit was with you during those forty days. Now, I must remember that the Spirit is with me, especially at times when I am tempted.

Monday - 1st Week

"Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
(Lev. 19. 1,18)

Jesus, my holiness involves loving my neighbor in the same way that you love me. Lent will offer me many opportunities to do just that. My neighbor, not just the one next door, will become the graced way that I will grow in holiness.

Tuesday - Week 1

"In praying, do not babble like the pagans. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
(Mt. 6. 7-8)

Jesus, help me to be shorter and more trusting in my prayer each day. Give me what you know I need to love as you do. Be generous in the same way to those for whom I pray.

Wednesday - Week 1

"A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me."
(Ps. 51. 12-13)

Jesus, you provide the Sacrament of Reconciliation to create a clean heart in me. May I take from this encounter with you the daily grace that can renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Thursday - Week 1

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
(Mt. 7. 12)

Jesus, you ask me to be active in seeking your grace each day. I believe in your gracious care for me. May I always remember to ask and seek and knock.

Friday - Week 1

"If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
(Mt. 5. 25)

Jesus, help me to prepare well to receive you in Eucharist by seeking to reconcile with anyone I may have hurt by my lack of patience and love. You give me the gift of reconciliation; may I return that same gift to you through others.

Saturday - Week 1

"Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father."
(Mt. 5. 44)

Jesus, how easily I am hurt and how slow I am to forgive. May your grace move me to forgive more quickly, so that I can be more fully a child of my heavenly Father, forgiving as generously as you forgive. May my willingness to forgive, like yours, reach out beyond any border.

2nd Sunday of Lent

"Then from the cloud came a voice that said, 'This is my chosen Son; listen to him.'"
(Lk. 9.35)

Father, I hear your voice telling me to listen to your chosen One. As I continue my Lenten journey, help me to listen to Jesus' voice each day as he speaks to me in the Scriptures and often through my neighbor.

Monday - Week 2

"For the measure with which you measure will in turn be measured out to you."
(Lk. 6. 38)

Jesus, my measure is oftentimes very small. Your measure is always large and overflowing. Fill my heart each day with your measure so that your love in me may overflow to all I encounter.

Tuesday - Week 2

"Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool."
(Is. 1.18)

Jesus, you overwhelm me with your willingness to forgive. May the peaceful touch of your forgiveness encourage me never to return to sinful ways.

Wednesday - Week 2

"Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave."
(Mt. 20.27)

Jesus, you came among us to serve and give your life as a ransom for many. Give me a share in your humility so that I may delight in serving others.

Thursday - Week 2

"I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart to reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds."
(Jer. 17.10)

Jesus, you know my mind and heart as I live each day. I desire you to live in my mind and heart so that my deeds will reflect your loving kindness.

Friday - Week 2

"Remember the marvels the Lord has done."
(Psalm response)

Jesus, your gift of remembering allows us to reclaim joys of the past. As I reflect on the marvels you have done for me during my life-time and even before, I am able to recapture joy. May I always remember gratefully.

Saturday - Week 2

"Coming to his senses, (the younger son) thought, 'I shall get up and go to my Father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son."
(Lk. 15.18)

Jesus, you offer me this Lenten season as a way for me to come to my senses. In so many ways, I do not deserve to be a son (daughter) of our Father. Teach me the humility to acknowledge my sinful ways and show me the way home to my Father.

3rd Sunday of Lent

"If you do not repent, you will all perish as (these people) did."
(Lk. 13.3)

Jesus, your words are strong. I can hear the urgency in them. You have given me this Lenten season as a graced time to turn more completely to you - to experience again how gracious and merciful you are to me.

Monday - Week 3

"Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God?"
(Ps. 42. 2)

Jesus, I know what it is to be thirsty. I'm not sure that my soul always thirsts for you. I do desire to behold your face. Please awaken a deeper thirst for you in my soul each day this Lent.

Tuesday - Week 3

"Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior."
(Ps. 25. 4-5)

Jesus, who can teach and guide me better on my Lenten journey than you. Receive me, for I come to you with a contrite heart and a humble spirit. Teach me how to forgive from my heart.

Wednesday - Week 3

"Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 5.19)

Jesus, how wise and gracious you are. You have given me all the commands I need to know about living my life in a way that is pleasing to you. Help me to obey them lovingly and teach others by the way I live each day.

Thursday - Week 3

"Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, so that you may prosper."

Jesus, I hear so many voices during the day that try to influence how I live. Help me to learn to hear your voice speaking to me, so that I may prosper in your sight.

Friday - Week 3

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength."
(Mt. 12.29)

Jesus, you ask me to love you with every fiber of my being. I am awed when I hear your command. Then I remember that you never ask the impossible; your grace within me makes such complete love possible.

Saturday - Week 3

"The tax collector stood off at a great distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, the latter went home justified."
(Lk. 18.13)

Jesus, what great wisdom and humility I find in the prayerful attitude of the tax collector. My willingness to acknowledge my unworthiness to be in your presence and my need for your mercy is the wisdom I need to accept your saving love.

4th Sunday of Lent

"My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found."
(Lk. 15. 31-2)

Jesus, what great love you have toward the faithful and the prodigal! You celebrate faithfulness and return with the same generosity. I desire to be faithful. May I always remember your generosity whenever I am prodigal.

Monday - Week 4

"Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind."
(Is. 65.17)

Jesus, when you came to live among us and die for us, you expressed your desire to create anew and forget the things of the past. Enable me with your grace to move on from my past and savor the newness of grace in my present and future.

Tuesday - Week 4

"Jesus said to (the man), 'Rise, take up your mat, and walk.' Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked."
(Jn. 5.8-9)

Jesus, each morning you take me by the hand and tell me, "Rise, and walk." You give me the strength to get up and go about my day. Continue to hold my hand so that I remember that you are with me the whole day.

Wednesday - Week 4

"Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you."
(Is. 49.15)

Jesus, knowing that you will never forget me stirs gratefulness in my heart. May my gratefulness lead me to never forget you as I go about my day.

Thursday - Week 4

"How can you believe, when you accept praise from another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?" (Jn. 5. 44)

Jesus, as I go about doing good things during the day, am I content to accept the praise of God? Or do I seek to have others praise my efforts? As I continue my Lenten journey, help me to answer these questions in your favor: content to accept only your praise.

Friday - Week 4

"For if the just one be the Son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience."
(Wis. 2.18-19)

Jesus, you proved these words true in your suffering and death. While it's hard for me to admit at times, my sins are the reason for your choosing to suffer and die. What a gift of love your gentleness and patience continue to be to me.

Saturday - Week 4

"O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and rescue me."
(Ps. 7.2)

Jesus, I know that the devil pursues me, trying to entice me to sin. I know that I can take refuge in you. Sometimes I forget. Give me gentle reminders of your loving care.

5th Sunday of Lent

'Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus."
(Phil. 3.14)

As I continue my Lenten journey with you, Jesus, I am realizing how much you want me to forget my past and move forward in my efforts to love you and my neighbor. You are calling me toward my eternal home.

Monday - Week 5

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
(Jn. 8.12)

Jesus, I look around me at my world and I see plenty of darkness. Sometimes that darkness discourages me. Your light is my only hope. Teach me to fear no evil, for you are at my side.

Tuesday - Week 5

"When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. . . . I always do what is pleasing to him."
(Jn. 8.28-9)

Jesus, what an unbelievable way you have chosen to reveal your love for your Father and for me. As I look at your Cross, may my heart be moved with gratefulness and lead me to always do what is pleasing to you.

Wednesday - Week 5

"If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciple, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
(Jn. 8.31)

Jesus, I am trying to remain in your word during this Lenten season. More and more I am realizing the truth you are teaching me. Help me to experience the freedom that comes with being your faithful disciple and remaining in your word.

Thursday - Week 5

"Amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death."
(Jn. 8.51)

Jesus, I know that every human person will die. I hear your words and trust that my death in this world will be the moment when your promise of eternal life with you will be fulfilled. I will try each day to keep your word. Then I will not fear death, for you will take me home.

Friday - Week 5

"Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked."
(Jer, 20.13)

Jesus, you desire to rescue the life of the poor. I am part of your Body. Your desire must be mine too. May this desire lead me to personal acts that will touch some of the poor.

Saturday - Week 5

"I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them. My dwelling shall be with them."
(Ez. 37.27)

Jesus, I am always in wonder that our God would choose to make such a covenant with us, with me. You and the Father and the Spirit dwell with us and give us peace. May my wonder lead me to work personally to bring your peace to my brothers and sisters.

Palm/Passion Sunday

"(Christ Jesus) emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
(Phil. 2.6-7)

Jesus, the example of your humility is not lost on me. You encourage me to put myself humbly at the service of the Father's plan for me. There is nothing too humble for those who love and obey.

Monday of Holy Week

"Here is my servant. I … formed you and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement and from the dungeons, those who live in darkness."
(Is. 42. 1,7)

Jesus, you are the perfect Suffering Servant. By my baptism, I too have been called to be a servant, a light for the nations. Show me each day how I can be this light. Help me with your grace so that I will have the courage to reach out to anyone whose eyes you want to open and to those whose confinement you want to end.

Tuesday of Holy Week

"(Peter), will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I tell you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times."
(Jn. 13.38)

Jesus, I feel sorry for Peter. He was so sure of himself and his willingness to follow you even to death. And yet in his human weakness, he denied you three times. Sometimes I share Peter's sureness, and yet I have denied you in my weakness. Help me to weep for my denials as Peter did.

Wednesday of Holy Week

"Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak. I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for consolers, not one could I find."
(Ps. 69.21)

Jesus, my Lenten journey has brought me to these holy days when I will follow you in your Passion and Death. I desire to be with you for

Weekly Paragraphs for the Holy Sacrament
By Austin Farrer


We are, says the collect, not we shall be, punished for our offences: the world by boredom and fear of war, the Church by impotence and self-reproach, and we by separation from the life of God.  Punished, says the collect, and justly punished; for if we are separated from God, is it not that we have cut ourselves off, by laziness in praying, and faithlessness in obeying?  But, says the collect, we may yet pray with confidence to be relieved of punishment by God's mercy through Jesus Christ.  Our punishment lasts no longer than our will to live without God.  We throw ourselves into Christ’s sacrifice, we are offered, presented by him to God along with his own flesh and blood; for we are his flesh and blood, he does not disown us.
you are my Savior.


ST PAUL glories in his heroic sufferings; looking back on them, he would not be without them.  Some of them are splendid and dramatic, but others of them, even in retrospect, are boring and miserable: appeasing Jewish spite or neutralizing Christian treason, sitting up when he was dropping with sleep, working on when he was tired and longed to stop.  Besides his own burdens, there are everyone else’s: ‘Who is sick at heart and I am not sick, who falls from grace and I do not die of shame?’  He takes his friends into his heart, both for good and for evil, and in this above all he may justly glory.  It is the living out of our unity in Christ, that we should care for one another with the heart of Christ, and by our prayers throw ourselves into the deepest concerns of our friends.  Let us not offer this holy sacrifice without praying for some other man, as though we were that man himself.  It is an excellent thing, indeed, often to say all the prayers of the Eucharist in the place and person of another man saying them; being that man in God’s sight, so far as we know how.


WHAT is this gift of charity?  I stand before the altar today, I spread out my hands as though to call down something from the skies, and I ask for charity.  In asking I say that unless I receive it, I may seem to myself to be alive, but God will see that I am dead.  Am I dead, then, or am I alive in his eyes?  Have I this gift?  Will God give it me?  What is it, to begin with?  Not only doing the decent and helpful thing, for, says Christ’s apostle, I might go to the extreme of visible generosity, I might give all my goods to feed the poor, and yet lack charity.  Still less is it mere tolerance and a show of amiability.  It means that a caring for God and my neighbor becomes the stuff of my being, the mainspring of my will, not something joined on from outside.  God does not have love, he is love, and to have love we also must become it.  Why then, if to be alive I must have love thus, it is plain enough that I am dead.  Let me be dead; I come to this sacrament to take part in the resurrection.  I throw myself into the hands of God, and God is known to be God by this token: he raises the dead.


Dom Hubert van Zeller

IF we had any idea of the effect which sin has upon our mortal natures we would never sin again. If we had any idea of the effect which sin has upon our immortal souls we would never sin again. So say the authorities; and they speak truly. Yet, knowing quite a lot about the effects of sin, we still go on sinning.

We talk about people being self-possessed, and we know from the psalmist that 'my soul is in my hands always', yet the fact remains that we are surprised again and again into sin. We
are responsible and irresponsible at the same time. We have not the presence of mind to let reason hold its own against passion, and we have not the absence of mind which would
excuse us from guilt.

All the time we are called to the heights, all the time we are capable of sinking to the depths. 'Why is it that Thou wilt make so noble a thing of man?' asks Job. 'Never a day dawns but Thou wilt surprise him at his post; never a moment when Thou art not making proof of him.'

Our every waking hour is spent in choosing, deciding, weighing the relative claims of virtue and vice, good and evil, God and greed. Our lives are lived out in a continuous movement, in a flux that becomes set only at the moment of death. Morally and spiritually we are forever swimming with or against the current.

Before, during, and after making up our minds about anything there are innumerable alternatives which we could take, could be taking, could have taken. The action which in effect we have decided upon is the result of a process, sometimes conscious and sometimes not, of mental balancing. 'What do I get out of this' is the question the soul asks itself, 'and is it worth it?' Whether the speculation takes an instant or a week, whether the evidence is fairly sifted or is dismissed by an imperious emotion before it ever appears before the bar of reason, the matching of desire against desire is the whole business of temptation and the whole business of trying to respond to grace.

When we sin we do not break something external to ourselves: the law that we break is something internal to ourselves, something intimate and personal, something designed
by God with particular reference to our own specific sanctity. Infidelity to grace is not like smashing a window; it is more like choking a lung.

But. . . each act of resistance to temptation gives new vitality to the will. Every response to grace makes further response easier, every act of love is a contribution to the pattern of love which is at the same time in a constant process of development and under constant threat of destruction.

Our souls at the close of our lives are what we have made of the temptations and graces which have been shaping us. Experience is our education for good or ill; experience is not a fleeting instruction to which we may or may not be paying attention.  This means that what we choose to do to-day is, on the balance and apart from miraculous intervention, of a piece with what we have been choosing to do all our lives. The people we are at this moment, and therefore the people we shall be when we come to die, are the normal ones. Not necessarily the most true, but inevitably the most normal. They are those for whom we are responsible: they are those whom we have chosen to call ourselves.

This person whom I think of as myself here and now, to-day, is the one whom I have been building up since I was a child. I have been tending towards my present self. My free decisions have been adding to me or taking away; my experience has been used, whether to make a mask or to make reality, to make me.  I am my own norm. And what if that norm is false?

If I have spent my whole life plastering my face with make- up and molding a figure in wax, if I have never come out into the light but shuffled about in the shadows where my sins and disguises seemed to stand a better chance, I shall look all the worse when the Sun of Justice shines full upon me on the day of judgment. The make-up will run and the wax will melt, and I shall be exposed.

Memory, as we possess it in this life, is kind to sin. Except in the case of those spasms of remorse and fear which come to us at intervals, time has a way of softening the edges of our
failure. We look back and wonder why we were so foolish or so indiscreet or so irresponsible; we seldom look back and "wonder at the criminal neglect of grace, at the hideous malice.

But at the judgment we shall be given more accurate memories with which to assess our responsibility. Then we shall know exactly how far we have repented and how far we have
clung to our sin, how far we have deceived ourselves and others, how far we have fallen below the level to which grace was calling us and to which we knew that grace was calling us.

Then shall we be faced with the image of our two selves: the self that we have turned ourselves out to be, and the self that was in the mind of God when He created us. Then will the two selves merge into one, and at last we shall see ourselves as God sees us. And this may be the greatest shock of all.

But here again it works both ways. If the evil is to stand out to condemn us, may we not hope that there will be some good that will stand out to recommend us? Just as in this life we are constantly experiencing the wholly gratuitous lavishness of God's mercy, may we not trust that the same sort of thing will happen when we are tried for our lives in eternity?

So often in the past we have watched a crust harden over our souls and done nothing about it. Then God, seeing perhaps a movement of goodwill in our hearts, or possibly even
seeing nothing there at all but an empty space which He wants to see filled with love, takes the initiative and breaks the shell. On the day of judgment, before sentence is passed, there will be evidence enough to damn our souls forever.  But perhaps by that time the outer cover of our souls will be lying in pieces, and the good which He has conjured out of us at the last moment of our mortal lives-the good which He has Himself placed there to conjure up-will be witness in our favor.

When the Father summons the soul to take the place prepared in heaven, it will not be because of any beauty which the soul has managed to design for itself. It will be because of the Son whom the Father sees reflected there. The indwelling will then be the whole-dwelling, and there will be nothing to prevent the possession of the promise.

Not until my earthly nature, with its sins and evasions and self-deceptions, has been laid aside can I begin to live to full capacity. It is as if, while I am still in this world, I am forever pressing against the covering which holds me captive to human conditions and at the same time drawing closer the very folds that cover me: I long for escape into the new element which I know to be true, while at the same time I long for the protection of the old element which I know to be false.

Not till the earthenware vessels in the hands of Gideon's men were broken did the light which was to bring them victory shine.

From The Choice of God (Templegate 1956)

1 comment:

Greg Rogers said...

Clever title. Never seen the word ascesis before. Spellcheck doesn't like it. Glad to know we can use chicken fat broth in lenten dinners.