By: David Philippart
Sunday, March 5, 2017
The hurtling of our planet through space on its annual pilgrimage around our star, the sun; the stately dancing of the moon around the earth, each phase a graceful step; the sweep of human history, its spectacular joys and sorrows—all three conspire together to bring us to this hour. Again it is Lent. And soon it will be that day that crowns all our days, Easter. There is much to do. Let’s lean into this Lent!
Sunday eucharist, Wednesday evening prayer at 7, daily Mass, confession—liturgy is our first work this Lent. During Lent, we’re singing the “Lord, have mercy” in its original Greek: Kyrie, eleison. Balthasar Fischer (1912-2001) wrote: “This petition means more than ‘Help us!’ It means ‘Take all of us with you on your journey through death to life.’ ” Our penitential act also includes a prayer dialog. “Have mercy on us, O Lord,” the priest begins. “For we have sinned against you,” we say. Then the priest begs God, “Show us your mercy and love!” Meanwhile, one of us holds our beautiful large processional cross for all to see. This lovely image stands tall near the altar year round. But in Lent we lovingly carry it through our midst to begin, and hold it for all to gaze on. For here is how God shows us mercy and love. In mercy, God shares our suffering and dying. In love, God raises us up through death to new life.
The liturgy strengthens us to take up three fundamental spiritual practices: praying, fasting, and giving alms, our second work. They are sacred ways to repent, repair, and renew both spirit and world. At Wednesday evening prayer, great preachers will explore this work from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim perspectives. In the fifth century, Peter Chrysologus observed “Fasting is the soul of prayer, giving alms is the lifeblood of fasting. If we have not all three, we have nothing.”
And praying, fasting and giving strengthens us to take up the ultimate work of Lent: dying to self and rising to a life for others. As with Noah, as with Daniel in the lion’s den, as with Israel from Egypt, God is about to snatch life out of death. At the Easter Vigil, ten adults will be baptized, confirmed, and welcomed to communion. So lean into Lent and pray:
Again and again you draw us back, O God,
and in this fast of forty days and forty nights
return with us to face the dangers of deluge and delusion
in floods of brokenness and dying.
Once more we find ourselves cast into dens of peril
where injustice and inequity are more hazardous than tooth or claw.
The precious blood of our children senselessly staining our streets
cries out to us to leave at once this slave-state
of consumerism, cynicism, and racism
that would deceive us into thinking there is nothing we can do.
Once more gather us together in transit through these terrors!
Alone in this fearful desert each one would die.
But together, as Old Saint Patrick’s Church,
you enclose us in your cloak of cloud against all dangers of the day
and lead us boldly, brilliantly through each disorienting night.
We trust that once more you are bringing us safely
to that other side, Easter, rising.
United to those you have chosen for Easter’s sacraments,
with and for
Michael, Katherine, Zach, Mike and Kathryn,
Shea, Christine and Phillip,
Christopher, Stephanie and Tamika
we take up with greater care the age-old ways
of praying, fasting, and sharing with the poor. Stir up within us such desire for you that we repent,
forever turning toward you.
Renew within us a heart that knows
that the best way to love you
is to love each other more.
Then send us out strengthened to work together faithfully:
Use us, Holy One of power and might,
to repair this broken world
in the holy name of Jesus,
your Divine Child,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever. Amen.