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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016 Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Sirach, Chapter 50, Verse 28-29
28 Happy those who meditate upon these things; wise those who take them to heart! 29 If they put them into practice, they can cope with anything, for the fear of the LORD is their lamp.

The human heart is the seat of the human will. May He illuminate our hearts to serve Him.

What is meant by serving God?

Doing the will of God in all things which He requires of us, in whatever state of life we may be placed, and doing this with fidelity, with unwearied zeal, and out of love for Him. (Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896)

When we are bored and familiar with routine work, let us generously offer ourselves to the Lord for He indeed knows our needs and will take care of our well-being.

Each one should judge his own conduct without having to compare it with what someone else has done. (Gal. 6:4)

In the twilight of life, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human successes, but on how well we have loved. (St. John of the Cross)[1]

Let us remember Christ’s words to us on service, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” (Mk. 8:34-35) Life seen as mere self-centered earthly existence and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction, but when lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life. True discipleship is total commitment to Christ through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself.

Repent, says the Lord; the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
(Mt. 4:17)

The Great Fast[2]

Of all the observances of Lent, the chief among these is the Great Fast. So intertwined are the words Lent and the Great Fast, that in fact the Fathers of the Church sometimes used the terms interchangeably. This solemn obligation is believed to be of Apostolic origin and takes its precedent, as we mentioned above, from the examples of Moses, Elias, and Jesus Christ. The Great Fast used to consist of both abstinence and fasting. Christians were expected to abstain not only from flesh meat, but from all things that come from flesh, e.g. milk, cheese, eggs, and butter. Eastern rite Christians still observe this practice, while the Western church gradually kept only abstinence from meat (reference to all lacticinia, or "milk foods," was dropped in the 1919 Roman Code of Canon Law). Both East and West, however, agree on the importance of fasting. Originally this meant taking only one meal a day, though the practice was modified over the centuries. The preconciliar practice in the U.S. was for all able-bodied Catholics ages 21 to 60 to have one full meal a day which could include meat, and two meatless meals which together could not equal one full meal. Snacking between meals was prohibited, though drinking was not. Ash Wednesday, Fridays and the Ember Days were days of total abstinence from meat, while Sundays were completely exempted from all fasting and abstaining. The idea behind the Great Fast -- as well as other periods of fasting -- is that by weakening the body it is made more obedient to the soul, thereby liberating the soul to contemplate higher things. St. Augustine gives perhaps the best example: if you have a particularly high-spirited horse, you train it at the times when it is too weak to revolt. It is our opinion that this venerable practice should still be taken seriously. Even though current ecclesiastical law has reduced the fast from forty days to two and eliminated the thirty-three days of partial abstinence, this does not mean that observing the Great Fast is not salubrious or praiseworthy. This said, however, the Great Fast should not be adhered to legalistically. In the words of St. John Chrysostom: "If your body is not strong enough to continue fasting all day, no wise man will reprove you; for we serve a gentle and merciful Lord who expects nothing of us beyond our strength."

The Church’s Calendar[3]

We often learn our doctrine much more deeply and effectively simply by celebrating the feasts and fasts of the Church.

In fact in Orthodox Judaism the calendar is the catechism of Israel. According to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, “On the pinions of time which bear us through life, God has inscribed the eternal words of His soul-inspiring doctrine, making days and weeks, months and years the heralds to proclaim His truths. Nothing would seem more fleeting than these elements of time, but to them God has entrusted the care of His holy things, thereby rendering them more imperishable and more accessible.”

CCC2698. The Tradition of the Church proposes to the faithful certain rhythms of praying intended to nourish continual prayer. Some are daily, such as morning and evening prayer, grace before and after meals, the Liturgy of the Hours. Sundays, centered on the Eucharist, are kept holy primarily by prayer. The cycle of the liturgical year and its great feasts are also basic rhythms of the Christian's life of prayer.

No one knows human nature better than the God who created it. The book of Genesis tells us that the Lord God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. He rested not because he was weary-God does not tire-but because the wanted to provide a model for human labor and rest. The Church calendar coincides with the cosmic rhythms of God. The Church calendar reflects this fact: That Christ rose from the dead in payment for our sins and is the Jewish Messiah that was hoped for.





[3] Hahn, Scott, Signs of Life; 40 Catholic Customs and their biblical roots. Chap. 6. The Church Calendar.

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