Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Martial Lent

Lent kicked off this year, as it does every year, with Ash Wednesday. Some years, I enter into the spirit of Lent more fully than other years, and the character of the season seems to take on a slightly different flavor each year. What struck me this year, based on the Collect Prayer of the Ash Wednesday liturgy, was the martial nature of the season.

I was reminded that, in Confirmation, we are called to become soldiers of Christ. It is a reality that isn't often emphasized in many catechetical programs these days, but it is a reality nonetheless. I usually only consider this a few times during the year, notably on the Feast of Christ the King, and on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, when I have reason to reflect upon the union of the Church Triumphant (the saints in heaven), the Church Suffering (the souls in Purgatory), and the Church Militant (those of us here on earth).

The General Catechetical Directory of 1971 stated, "Since the life of Christians, which on earth is warfare, is liable to temptations and sins, the way of the Sacrament of Penance is open for them, so that they may obtain pardon from the merciful God and reconcile themselves with the Church." Pope John Paul II confirmed the militant nature of our mission in 1992, saying, "The grace conferred by the Sacrament of Confirmation is more specifically a gift of strength. this gift corresponds to the need for greater zeal in facing the 'spiritual battle' of faith and charity in order to resist temptation and give the witness of Christian word and deed to the world with courage, fervor and perseverance. This zeal is conferred by the Holy Spirit."

The Ash Wednesday Collect explicitly evokes the image of going to war during the season of Lent, calling us to take up spiritual arms in a campaign against evil. That is the flavor that my Lent is taking on this year.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, aw we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

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