February 4, 2008
vol 19, no. 35

Monday in Quinquagesima Week
Abbe Dom Prosper Gueranger

    Lent is almost here, the short Week of Quinquagesima is the portal for Ash Wednesday. One can understand the rationale for fifty days before Easter in the excellent, inspiring reflections which the wise and holy abbot of the 19th century, Abbe Dom Gueranger provides in properly preparing our bodies, minds and souls for the penitential time of Lent.

      Editor's Note: Because the Liturgical Season of Lent, which officially began with the Septuagesima Sunday and continued last week with Sexagesima Sunday, we have decided to bring you excerpts for this season focusing today on Quinquagesima Sunday which will be followed tomorrow with Monday in Quinquagesima, then Shrove Tuesday and finally Ash Wednesday. The excerpts for this are taken from Volume 4, pages 178-205). We have thus turned to the most traditional and practical Catholic source available, none other than the inspired and motivating words of the esteemed Abbot of Solesmes Dom Prosper Louis Pascal Gueranger, renowned for his masterful work The Liturgical Year, which is often considered the Summa for the Church's Liturgy in History, Mystery and Practice. It is in those areas that we feel it is important to address in order to help readers live as better Catholics in knowing, living, and applying their Faith to the fullest and giving to Christ and His Blessed Mother all that they can. Few capture the essence as this humble but brilliant abbot who is known simply as "the Gardener of the Canticles of Eternity."

When God calls, Will we respond?

    The life of a faithful Christian, like that of the patriarch Abraham, is neither more nor less than a courageous journeying onwards to the place destined for him by his Creator. He must put aside everything that could impede his progress, nor must he look back. This is, undoubtedly, hard doctrine; but if we reflect, for a moment, on the dangers which surround fallen man during his earthly pilgrimage, and on what our own sad experience has taught us, we shall not think it hard or strange, that our Savior has made the renouncing and denying of ourselves an essential condition of our salvation.

    But, independently of this, is it not far better to put our life under God's guidance, than to keep it in our own? Are we so wise or so strong, as to be able to guide ourselves? We may resist as we please, but God is our sovereign Lord and Master; and by giving us free-will, whereby we may either resist His will or follow it, He has not abdicated His own infinite rights to His creatures' obedience. Our refusal to obey would not make Him less our Master.

    Had Abraham, after receiving the divine call, chosen to remain in Chaldea, and refused to break up the home which God had bade him leave, God would then have selected some other man to be the patriarch of His chosen people, and father of that very family, which was to have the Messias as one of its children. This substitution of one for another in the order of grace is frequently forced upon divine justice; but what a terrible punishment it is for him that caused the substitution! When a soul refuses salvation, Heaven does not therefore lose one of its elect: God, finding that He is despised by the one He called, offers the grace to another, until His call is followed.

    The Christian life consists in this untiring, unreserved obedience to God. The first effect of this spirit of submission is, that it takes the soul from the region of sin and death, wherein she was wasting away her existence; it takes her from the dark Chaldea, and places her in the promised land of light. Lest she should faint on her way along the narrow path, and fallen victim to the dangers which never leave her because they are within herself, God asks her for sacrifices, add these race her.

    Here, again, we have Abraham for our model. God loves him, and promises him the richest of blessings; He gives him a son, as pledge of the promise; and then, shortly after, tests the holy patriarch's devotedness, by commanding him to slay with his own hand this dear child, on whom he has been told to build his hopes!

    Man's path on earth is sacrifice. We cannot go out from evil except by the way of self-resistance, nor keep our footing on good ground but by constant combating. Let us imitate Abraham: fix our eyes steadfastly on the eternal hills, and consider this world as a mere passing dwelling, tent, put up for a few days. Our Jesus has said to us: 'I came not to send peace, but the sword; for I came to separate'(1)-{St. Matthew x: 34, 35}

    Separation, then, and trials are sure to be sent us; but we are equally sure that they are for our good, since they are sent us by Him Who so loved us, that He became one of ourselves. But this same Jesus has also said: 'Where thy treasure is, there, too, is thy heart'(2)-{Ibid. vi. 21}. Christians! Can our treasure be in this wretched world? No it must be in that fair land above. There, then, must we be, in desire and affection.

    These are the thoughts the Church would have us meditate upon during these days, which immediately precede the forty of Lent. They will help to purify our hearts and make them long to be with their God. The noise of the world's sins and scandals reaches our ears: let us pray, that the kingdom of God may come to us and to those poor sinners; for God's infinite mercy can change THEM, IF He will, into children of Abraham. Not a day passes but He so changes many a sinner. He has, perhaps, shown that miracle of His mercy to us, and those words of the apostle may be applied to us: 'You, who some time were afar off, are now made nigh (to God) by the Blood of Christ'(1)- {Ephesians ii: 13}.

    February 4, 2008
    vol 19, no. 35