Saturday, March 8, 2014

First Sunday in Lent: What We Pray is What We Believe

This Sunday we hear in the Roman Missal how Christ set the pattern for Lent and how we today are to take it to heart. When we really listen to what the presider prays we can learn much about the attitudes and expectations of the season. This is not surprising. Lex orandi, lex credendi is an ancient saying, meaning literally "the law of prayer is the law of belief" - or what we pray (in the liturgy) is what we believe (see CCC 1124.)  Let's take a look at what the texts of the First Sunday in Lent say.

In the Collect, we hear:
Grant, almighty God,
through the yearly observances of holy Lent,
that we may grow in understanding
of the riches hidden in Christ,
and by worthy conduct pursue their effects...
In the Prayer over the Offerings:
Give us the right dispositions, O Lord, we pray,
to make these offerings,
for with them we celebrate the beginning
of this venerable and sacred time.... 
 In the Preface:
...By abstaining forty long days from earthly food,
he [Christ] consecrated through his fast
the pattern of our Lenten observance
and, by overturning all the snares of the ancient serpent,
taught us to cast out the leaven of malice,
so that celebrating worthily the Paschal Mystery,
we might pass over at last to the eternal paschal feast. 
In the Prayer after Communion:
Renewed now with heavenly bread,
by which faith is nourished, hope is increased,
and charity strengthened,
we pray, O Lord,
that we may learn to hunger for Christ,
the true and living Bread,
and strive to live by every word
which proceeds from your mouth... 
Finally, in the Prayer over the People:
May bountiful blessing, O Lord, we pray,
come down upon your people,
that hope my grow in tribulation,
virtue may be strengthened in temptation,
and eternal redemption be assured.
What do we learn? That Lent is about not only right actions, but right attitudes (dispositions). That Christ himself, in his 40 days in the desert, is the model for Lent. That all of Lent is focused toward our celebration of the Easter Triduum (the Paschal Mystery) and that the Eucharist we receive at Mass strengthens and nourishes our ability to live the Cardinal Virtues - faith, hope and charity - as well as our ability to resist temptation. All of this, of course, is with reference to our eternal salvation and the eternal banquet in heaven.

So, convoluted though they may be, the prayers at Mass have a lot of catechesis about Lent in them. Listen this weekend, and take them to heart. How will you allow Jesus in the Eucharist to help you with your Lenten journey?

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