Every Ash Wednesday I put away Book III of the Liturgy of the Hours, and pull out Book II for the Lenten and Easter Season.
Book III is pretty big, but Book II is “the big book.” It’s a book that carries a little bit of penance for me, on days when the arthritis in my hands is acting up, because just holding it in prayer sometimes makes me aware of pain. The book gets heavy, but Lent is a heavy time; as my prayer is distracted, I simply offer it up — I look at the crucifix on my oratory and consider how small that discomfort is, compared to Christ’s suffering — and it is easy to return to the psalm, and give it a fuller attention.
Happy Ash Wednesday! It is always a happy day, for me, because it marks the beginning of a yearly adventure, and I am a girl who loves to plunge headforth into adventure — at least at its start — and even if the adventure ends up being a bit prickly or even exceedingly painful, I know this is an adventure always worth taking. We begin the prayer, fasting and alms-giving of this season, with a smile and an expectation that an arduous journey begun will deliver us into something wonderful!
God himself will set me free, from the hunter’s snare.
– God himself will set me free, from the hunter’s snare.
From those who would trap me with lying words,
– and from the hunter’s snare.
And this Lent, we have the particular help of our Holy Father, whose resignation has taken us by such surprise, and caused us to wonder, and to turn our hearts and minds (as Benedict himself might say, “in a special way”) toward all that is doing harm to the Barque of the Church, and all that is yar, and should be appreciated, and depended upon. This season of fasting and prayer, my intention is to purposely join my prayers to the prayers of Joseph Ratzinger, for love of the Christ and his roiled church as it crashes against intense waves and currents. It is with particular joy that I raised my hands this morning, and prayed:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
Reminded daily of the faithful way God keeps his promises in order to fulfill his own will that we might be free, I say again, Happy Ash Wednesday!
If you are not praying any part of the Liturgy of the Hours, I really invite you — urge you — to pray some portion of them, every day throughout Lent. If you don’t know anything about it, “do not be afraid!” Go to divineoffice.org, and they’ve got it all laid out and ready for you, with audio, if you like. Try one of the hours — Day Prayer (which you can pray at your desk, perhaps, during a break) and Compline (before you shut off your computer for the night?) are the shortest, if you’re pressed for time. Or you can pray Compline along with me, on my podcasts (scroll down my sidebar).
I promise you — a real promise — time spent with the psalms in the LOTH will not be time wasted for you. In the past decade the psalms have changed me in fundamental ways, (slowly, of course, but although I am still very much an unholy mess of a girl, I’m thankfully not who I was) and it will change you, too, for the better.
Don’t miss Deacon Greg’s homily, today. It’s very good:
These ashes proclaim that to the world—and declare that the great work of Lent has begun.
They are a mark of our humanity—and, significantly, our humility. Which is why what Pope Benedict did this week may be the ultimate lesson for Lent.
It is a lesson in letting go.
A man who has, arguably, the most important job in the world is letting it go. In our modern age, that is almost unthinkable.
We are used to climbing the ladder and enjoying the view. We’re taught to work for the best office in the building and the best seat at the table. We strive to get, to own, to possess, to control. We’re used to holding on. We’re not used to letting go.
But Benedict is saying: “It’s okay. Let go.” Know when it is time to let someone else lead. Know when it’s time to follow. Let go.
To borrow a phrase from the recovery movement: let go…and let God.
How many of us have trouble with that? Over the next 40 days, we need to take a hard look at those things in our lives that we are holding onto. This Lent, don’t give them up. Let them go.
We can’t all let go of powerful positions, as the pope is doing. But look at all the other things that define who we are, what we do. And look, in particular, at the choices that lead us to sin.
What are they? How about pride? Let it go. Let go of always feeling like you have all the answers. Let go of pettiness, jealousy, gossip. Let go of sarcasm. Let go of bitterness, hostility, anger. Let go of fear.
Let go of the temptation to just step around the guy on the sidewalk, or avoid the old woman down the hall, or spend that last five bucks on a cinnamon dolce crème frappuccino. Instead, spend what you have elsewhere. Spend time with someone who is lonely. Spend money on the poor. Spend your prayers on those who have no one to pray for them.
And let go of anything that gets in the way between you and God.
There is no better time than here and now. Remember: we are dust.
Read the whole thing. “Let go of sarcasm” hit me between the eyes, especially since I had indulged in it early in the morning. Great way to start the day, eh? No. Clearly I need to let it go. Curse you, Deacon!
And you, too, Tony Rossi for making it even plainer!
So, it’s Lent. I am so glad. I’m going to dance to Frank’s first song selection and then I’m going to try to do more edifying and instructive reading; I’m going to try to do my work more productively, so I will have more time for prayer, and for being with family and friends who have not gotten my best, lately. 40 days of trying, should yield something good, especially if all of it is offered up.
Check back later — I’ll update with great Lenten pieces as I find them. But I will immediately recommend these…
…Two Great Resources:
Tom McDonald has a superb piece: 9 Ways to Keep Lent, that I am printing out and keeping nearby, myself.
At Aggie Catholics, Marcel has his usual exhaustive and brilliantly useful Lenten Resource post
Bishop Christopher Coyne has St. Francis de Sales on fasting
Sister Mary Ann Walsh: Ashes for the Unabashedly Catholic
Russell Shaw says: To Appreciate Mercy, Appreciate Lent
Tim Muldoon looks at the mysterious: Born of the Father Before All Ages…
Sam Rocha is thinking death and life