Dear Friends in Christ,
The 40 Days of Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving which we call Lent begins in ten days with Ash Wednesday on 5 March. The e-bulletin this week includes a summary of the Church’s law of fasting and abstinence from meat and the Mass schedule for Ash Wednesday. Please plan now to abstain from meat on each Friday of Lent and to fast on (at least) Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and remember that these physical penances have a spiritual purpose — to help us understand our need to be converted from sin and filled with grace.
The sacred liturgy in Lent takes on a penitential character in several ways: We all begin the 40 Days signed with ashes; the Church’s ministers are clothed in purple; the Gloria — the Mass hymn of exaltation — is omitted; and the sacred music is generally sober and somber, befitting the constant call in Lent to repent and believe in the Gospel. One other change we will make during the coming 40 Days is in the text we use for the Profession of Faith; rather than the Nicene Creed which we use on the other Sundays of the year, we will use the Apostles’ Creed during Lent and Easter because the baptismal promises that we renew on Easter Sunday are nothing other than the Apostles’ Creed presented in a question and answer format.
The Gospels tell us that the Lord Jesus often went by himself to a quiet place to experience communion with his Father without distraction, and he invited his apostles to join him in this custom of going away to a quiet place (cf. Mark 6.31). From Christian antiquity, the Church has invited all of us to embrace this essential component of discipleship by making retreats and days of recollection, and during Lent we will offer such an opportunity here. On Saturday 15 March, Mass will be celebrated in the church at 9 am, and then we will move to Gallivan Hall for light refreshments in preparation for a spiritual conference given by Joseph Pearce, noted convert to the Faith, author of numerous books, and editor of the Saint Austin Review. Plan now to join us on 15 March for a morning of quiet prayer and fellowship.
Keeping a holy Lent is not merely about renouncing things; it is about heeding the call of Christ: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Reading and praying with Holy Scripture is the very best way to respond to Christ’s call, and the Church offers us an orderly way of doing this in the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office. To learn more about this ancient and official prayer of the Church, go to www.divineoffice.org, and also visit St. Anthony’s Bookstore on Congaree Road across from Haywood Mall to pick up printed versions of the Liturgy of the Hours in several forms, including the excellent monthly publication called Magnificat. The very best way to pray the Divine Office is to join us each Sunday of Lent at 5 pm for the singing of Solemn Vespers.