January 24, 2008
vol 19, no. 24

Reflections for Thursday in Septuagesima Week
Abbe Dom Prosper Gueranger

    Encompassing the Practice of the Liturgical Season of Septuagesima, the wise and holy abbot provides the nourishment necessary to properly prepare our bodies, minds and souls in concert with what is expected of the Mystical Body of Christ in preparation of the Lenten Season.

Sentenced to toil, nourished by Mercy and Promise

      Editor's Note: Because the Liturgical Season of Lent, which officially began on Septuagesima Sunday, we have decided to bring you excerpts (the excerpts below are taken from Volume 4, pages 1-14) from the most traditional and practical Catholic source available and that is 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."

    The curse, which is henceforth to lie so heavily on every human being, has been expressed in the sentence pronounced against Eve; the curse, to which the earth itself is to be subjected, is Adam's sentence. 'Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work (that is, on account of what thou hast done).'(1)-{Gen. iii. 17}

    Adam had excused his sin. God does not admit his excuse; yet He mercifully makes allowance for him, seeing that he sinned, not so much to gratify himself, as to please the frail creature that had been formed out of his own substance. He is not the originator of the disobedient act. God, therefore, sentences him to the personal humiliation of labor and toil, and of eating his bread in the sweat of his brow.(1)(Gen. iii. 17, 19}

    Outside the garden of Eden, there lies the immense desert of the earth. It is to be the valley of tears; and there must Adam dwell in exile for upwards of nine hundred years with the sad recollection in his heart of the few happy days spent in paradise! This desert is barren: Adam must give it fruitfulness by his toil, and draw from it, by the sweat of his brow, his own and his children's nourishment.

    If, in after ages, some men shall live without toil, they are the exception confirming the general law and chastisement. They rest, because others have labored long and hard for them; neither will God ratify their exceptional dispensation from labor, except on the condition that they give encouragement, by their charity and other virtues to their fellow-men, in whom Adam's sentence is literally carried out. Such is the necessity of toil, that if it be refused, the earth will yield but thorns and thistles;(2)- (Ibid. 18} such, too, the importance of this law imposed on fallen man, that idleness shall not only corrupt his heart, it shall also enervate his bodily strength.

    Before his sin, the trees of paradise bent down their branches, and man fed on their delicious fruits; but now he must till the earth and draw from it, with anxiety and fatigue, the seed which is to give him bread. Nothing could better express the penal relation between him and the earth, from which he was originally formed, and which is henceforth to be his tomb, than this law to which God sentences him of being indebted to the earth for the nourishment which is to keep him in life.

    And yet here also divine mercy shall show itself; for, when God shall have appeased, it shall be granted to man to unite himself to his Creator by eating the Bread of life, which is to come down from Heaven, and whose efficacy for the nourishing of our souls shall be greater than ever the fruit of the tree of life could have been for the immortalizing of our bodily existence.

    January 24, 2008
    vol 19, no. 24