Lent! Quadragesima! The 40 days! What a delight to the spirit it is to prepare yet again for the coming of Our Lord in Easter.
For me Lent is the most Catholic of times. The prayers of the Liturgy, the hymns, the chants the penance that is done in this time in many ways seems to define what it is to be a Catholic. Even thought the Council of Nicaea affirmed that we are a Risen People in Christ it has always been this time that brings about the identity of Catholicism. It is not that the faith is dower and that we are spiritual masochists but rather it is that the Resurrection cannot be in any way separated from the Cross of Christ. We are indeed risen but that rising is with our eyes firmly fixed on the Cross for it is that contradiction of Life in Death that our Salvation is poured forth.
As a Dominican this time takes on an even more special meaning. Perhaps it is most exemplified by the ancient practice in Rome. Every year the Holy Father processes from San Anselmo to Santa Sabina where the Mass is celebrated with the imposition of ashes. Santa Sabina is an ancient Basilica and it is also the seat of the Dominican Order. This church is known for its striking difference from many of the other Roman churches and Basilicas in that it is unadorned and mostly preserved in its Roman simplicity. It is a church of Marble and Light. It is austere in the way that the life of a Dominican is to be. It is a life that is to be simple and hard like the marble that adorns our church but it is to be filled with the joy of the Light of Christ flowing into it from above. It is no mistake that it is in Santa Sabina that Lent truly begins.
For me this year marks a special milestone in my life as a Catholic. This is the ninth year of my reception of our Blessed Lord in the True Presence of the Most Holy Eucharist. This day is always a day of reflection on the great mysteries that are the Sacraments. These moments, moments of encounter with the Living Lord are so precious. It is indeed easy to forget how precious these moments are. Today most people, at least in the western world, tend to receive Communion on a very frequent basis. This was not always the case. The reception of Communion was only done on special feast through the year and only before many acts of penance and most importantly the reception of the Sacrament of Confession. In that culture the Sacramental encounter seemed to be more pronounced than today. People yearned with hunger in their hearts at the thought of consuming the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist. It seems that it was a true case of absence making the heart grow fonder. Since the request of St. Pius X that Catholics receive communion on a more frequent basis me must recapture the awe of the Sacraments in new ways. We must relearn how sacred a moment it is for the God of all creation to come to us in an act of utter humility offering Himself to be our food. What great a God have we! To enter into this august mystery is to enter into the very heart of the Blessed Trinity. We should always remember what it is that we receive and who it is that we receive.
With this in mind Lent is a time to remember. We recall the sin of Adam, Abraham and Isaac, all the Patriarchs of Israel, Sinai, the Wilderness, the Prophets. We remember the Incarnation, the mission, the garden, the Condemnation and the Death of our Savior. We remember. To remember is for us not merely to recall something in the past but it is to bring to this very moment that which once was and always is. It is to re-live, to make present the mystery of our Salvation. This is not an artificial act but we truly enter into that time where there is no time. When Christ took flesh of the virgin womb he shattered the barrier between time and eternity. He made His earthly presence one with His divine presence extending through all time and all space and in this way we may ever enter into this eternally present moment of His life, death and resurrection. We do not remember passively but rather we actively remember and as we bring these moments of Christ's earthly existence before us we are in turn remembered in His salvific actions. He is born for us. He preaches to us. He sweats blood for us. His flesh is torn and His blood is spilled for us. He meets us on His way to Golgotha. He looks upon us standing with His mother from His Holy Cross. This is what it means to enter into the season. We take our place in the Psacal Mystery and are raised up with Him in both Cross and Glory. And gazing upon his Blessed and beautiful countenence we say with St. Dismas, "Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your Kingdom." And then, looking upon us in love; we are remembered.