Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Good Lententide

The custom of Lent is at least as old as the Byzantine Empire, and possibly was in practice even before then. And of course, fasting and prayer have been around since before Christ was on Earth.

There is a hymn sung in Catholic masses that I love:
Glória in excélsis Deo
et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis.
Laudámus te,
benedícimus te,
adorámus te,
glorificámus te,
grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam,
Dómine Deus, Rex cæléstis,
Deus Pater omnípotens.
Dómine Fili Unigénite, Iesu Christe,
Dómine Deus, Agnus Dei, Fílius Patris,
qui tollis peccáta mundi, miserére nobis;
qui tollis peccáta mundi, súscipe deprecatiónem nostram.
Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris, miserére nobis.
Quóniam tu solus Sanctus, tu solus Dóminus, tu solus Altíssimus,
Iesu Christe, cum Sancto Spíritu: in glória Dei Patris. Amen.
Here it is in English:
Glory be to God on high.
And in earth peace towards men of good will.
We praise thee.
We bless thee.
We worship thee.
We glorify thee.
We give thanks to thee for thy great glory.
O Lord God, heavenly King
God the Father almighty.
O Lord, the only-begotten Son Jesu Christ.
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right of the Father, have mercy upon us.
For thou only art Holy. Thou only art the Lord. Thou only art the Most High.
Thou only, O Jesu Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art Most High in the glory of God the Father. Amen
During Lent, Catholic congregations do not sing this hymn; it disappears on Ash Wednesday and isn't sung again until Easter Sunday, celebrating the resurrection of Christ.

Lent is commonly thought of as a time of sorrow and penance, of sacrifice for the purpose of reflection and purification; it sounds rather joyless. But reflection and purification should be joyful. Lent is also often thought to symbolize or commemorate Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the desert in preparation to begin His ministry on Earth, and our sacrifice is to honor His sacrifice on the cross.

There is sorrow for Jesus' suffering and repentance for our sin, but there is joy in the sacrifice. In this solemn season there is the anticipation of the celebration at the end. We are hopeful through the despair because we know how the story ends: though Christ was put to death, it could not hold Him; though we sacrifice coffee or sweets or TV (me) and have times of sorrow, we look forward to the end of the story, the joy that comes in the morning, the life and resurrection of Christ. And our sacrifice is no longer a burden.

1 comment:

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