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Catholic Activity: The Kaleidoscope of Lent



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Reflection on the season of Lent as a kaleidoscope -- varied, beautiful forms and patterns.


Lent is a kaleidoscope reflecting the liturgy in varied, beautiful forms and patterns.

Springtime of the liturgical year, Lent derives its name from an old English word Lenten, meaning, "spring season." It is ushered in by a conditioning period of three weeks, called Pre-Lent, during which we should become aware of our sinfulness and the need of doing something about it.

Lent itself, a season of forty days excluding Sundays, has two distinct phases: Lent, properly speaking, lasting from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Palm Sunday; and Passiontide, the week beginning with Palm Sunday and reaching to the celebration of the Easter Vigil on the night of the following Saturday. The first five weeks lead us on a road of penance and renew our baptismal integrity; the final week, Holy Week, is dedicated to the memory of our Savior's sufferings. Within this last week of holy Lent falls the sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, the Christian Passover unto the mystery of the Resurrection.

You may wonder about Ash Wednesday. It begins the fast of Lent so that the total number of days adds up to forty. But the Ordinary of the season, in the Divine Office, for instance, begins on the following Sunday. "Little Easters" — Sundays — never were days of fast.

We must not see Lent as a season by itself. Lent and Easter, the pivotal point, are parts of an ever repeating mystery.

Lent, prelude to the sublimest of seasons, Easter, has magnificent scores, moving drama in its Paschal mystery, and a central figure and chief actor, our hero, Christ himself. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., reminds us:

Even those that do not follow him, look wistfully after him, own him as a hero, and wish they dared follow his call. Children as soon as they can understand ought to be told about him, that they may make him the Hero of their young hearts. It is the first lesson that little ones should learn at the father's or mother's mouth."

Lent is the season of life through death (to self), the time when from the planted and dying kernels of divine wheat a wonderful harvest comes. It is the season that yields souls freshly ripe from the font of baptism, and from re-baptism through penance unto the glory of Easter.

Holy Lent, our yearly Passover from the bondage of sin and slavery to redemption through the precious Blood of the Lamb of God, readies us for the Paschal banquet. Pasch is Hebrew for Passover; the first of the great feasts of the Jewish dispensation, it commemorated the Lord's "passing over" and sparing the firstborn in the houses of the Israelites in Egypt. "When he struck down the Egyptians, he spared our houses" (Exodus 12:27).

The celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, whereby the human race was redeemed from sin, is the Christian Passover. "Christ is the true Lamb who has taken away the sins of the world, who by dying has overcome death and by rising again has restored our life" (Preface of the Easter Mass).

Elsewhere on our religious kaleidoscope we see Lent as a world-wide retreat, yours and mine, a time for drastic spiritual renewal. Christ is our Retreat-Master. He speaks to us each day in the Lenten Masses. We must find time to stop and listen. There is no substitute for this.

In the diadem of the liturgy Lent is a precious stone, its color deep and intense, its facets vivid. Insensitive to spiritual values, we may find Lent a steep, hard pull; but if the climb is continued, Holy Thursday suddenly unveils the golden summit. Despite the darkness of Calvary, the splendor and light of glorious Easter already shines forth. And Christ is in our midst — lovingly.

A time of mortification, Lent nevertheless has woven into its penitential fabric golden threads of joyous hope. Again and again in the season's purple we may see the gleam of gold. It should remind us and our children that death to self means transfigured lives in the light of Easter resurrection.

Activity Source: Holy Lent by Eileen O'Callaghan, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1975