Fourth Week of Lent

The Joy of Lent
by
Abbe Dom Prosper Gueranger

    In the midst of the Season of Lent holy Mother Church provides us an oasis of joy with Laetare Sunday and a cornucopia of feasts this week with only two Lenten Ferias during the Fourth Week of Lent. We begin this year rejoicing over the feast of the holy Bishop and Doctor of the Church St. Cyril of Jerusalem, followed immediately by the First Class Feast of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church and soon after the Father of Monasticism with the Feast of St. Benedict and ends the week with the greater double Feast of St. Gabriel the Archangel who announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear the Son of God. It is appropriate this year, as well, that we end Laetare Week with God's hand-chosen heavenly spirit for it is the clarion to the faithful to return to a sincere recommitment of persevering in our pentitential practice and prayer for the next two weeks will intensify leading to Good Friday, beginning with Passion Sunday.

      Editor's Note: Because of the spiritual importance of the Liturgical Season of Lent, we have decided to bring you excerpts for this season focusing today on the Joy of Lent as expressed on Laetare Sunday and the theme throughout the week (the excerpts below are taken from Volume 5, pages 313-386). 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."

    The Church interrupts her lenten mournfulness; the chants of the Mass speak of nothing but joy and consolation; the organ, which has been silent during the preceding three Sundays, now gives forth its melodious voice; the deacon resumes his dalmatic, and the subdeacon his tunic; and instead of purple, rose-colored vestments are allowed to be used... The Church's motive is to encourage her children to persevere fervently to the end of this holy season. (p. 313)

    Let us, the, rejoice, and spend this day with light-heartedness of pilgrims who are near the end of their journey. The happy moment is advancing, when our soul, united and filled with her God, will look back with pleasure on the fatigues of the body, which, together with our heart's compunction, have merited for her a place at the divine banquet. (p. 318)

Reflections on the Epistle for Laetare Sunday

    Let us, then, rejoice! We are children, not of Sina, but of Jerusalem. Our mother, the holy Church, is not a bond-woman, but free; and it is unto freedom that she has brought us up. Israel served God in fear; his heart was ever tending to idolatry, and could be kept to duty only by the heavy yoke of chastisement. More happy than he, we serve God through love; our yoke is sweet, and our burden is light! (1)- {St. Matt. xi: 30} We are not citizens of the earth; we are but pilgrims passing through it to our true country, the Jerusalem which is above. We leave the earthly Jerusalem to the Jew, who minds only terrestrial things, is disappont4ed with Jesus and is plotting how to crucify Him. We also have too long been groveling in the goods of this world; we have been slaves to sin; and the more the chains of our bondage weighed upon us, the more we talked of our being free. Now is the favorable time; now are the days of salvation; we have obeyed the Church's call, and have entered into the practice and spirit of Lent. Sin seems to us, now, to be the heaviest of yokes; the flesh, a dangerous burden; the world, a merciless tyrant. We begin to breathe the fresh air of holy liberty, and the hope of our speedy deliverance fills us with transports of joy. Let us, with all possible affection, thank our divine Liberator, who delivers us from the bondage of Agar, emancipates us from the law of fear, and making us His new people, opens to us the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, at the price of His Blood. (p. 320-321)

Reflections on the Gospel for Laetare Sunday

    These men, whom Jesus has been feeding by a miracle of love and power, are resolved to make Him their King. They have no hesitation is proclaiming Him worthy to reign over them; for when can they find one worthier? What, then, shall we Christians do, who know the goodness and the power of Jesus incomparably better than these poor Jews? We must beseech Him to reign over us, from this day forward. We have just been reading in the Epistle, that it is He who has made us free, by delivering us from our enemies. O glorious liberty! But the only way to maintain it, is to live under His Law. Jesus is not a tyrant, as are the world and the flesh; His rule is sweet and peaceful, and we are His children, rather than His servants. In the court of such a King 'to serve is to reign.' What, then, have we to do with our old slavery? If some of its chains be still upon us, let us lose no time, let us break them, for the Pasch is near at hand; the great feast day begins to dawn. Onwards, then, courageously to the end of our journey! Jesus will refresh us; He will make us sit down as He did the men of the Gospel; and the Bread He has in store for us will make us forget all our past fatigues. (p. 323-4).

Reflections for the Epistle and Gospel on Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

    [For the Epistle:] The two women, who appear before Solomon, are another figure of the same truth. The child whom they both claim is the Gentile people, which has been brought to the knowledge of the true God. The Synagogue, typified by the woman who has caused death to her child, has misled the people confided to her care; and now unjustly claims one that does not belong to her. And whereas it is not from any motherly affection, but only from pride, that she puts forward such a claim, it matters little to her what becomes of the child, provided only he not be given to the true mother, the Church. Solomon, the king of peace, who is one of the Scriptural types of Christ, adjudges the child to her that has given him birth and nourished him; and the pretensions of the false mother are rejected. Let us, then, love our mother, the holy Church, the bride of Jesus. It is she that has made us children of God by Baptism. She has fed us with the Bread of life; she has given us the Holy Spirit; and, when we had the misfortune to relapse into death by sin, she, by the divine power given to her, has restored us to life. A filial love for the Church is the sign of the elect; obedience to her commandments is the mark of a soul in which God has set His Kingdom. (p. 330-31)

    [For the Gospel:] Our souls are the temple of God, created and sanctified by God to the end that He might dwell there. He would have nothing to be in them, which is unworthy of their destination. This is the season for self-examination; and if we have found that any passions are profaning the sanctuary of our souls, let us dismiss them; let us beseech our Lord to drive them out by the scourge of His justice, for we, perhaps, might be too lenient with these sacrilegious intruders. The day of pardon is close at hand; let us make ourselves worthy to receive it. There is an expression in our Gospel which deserves a special notice. The evangelist is speaking of those Jews who were more sincere than the rest, and believed in Jesus, because of the miracles He wrought; he says: Jesus did not trust Himself to them, because He knew all men. So that there may be persons who believe n and acknowledge Jesus, yet whose hearts are not changed! Oh the hardness of man's heart! Oh cruel anxiety for God's priests! Sinners and worldlings are now crowding round the confessional; they have faith, and they confess their sins: and the Church has no confidence in their repentance! She knows that, a very short time after the feast of Easter, they will have relapsed into the same state in which they were on the day when she marked their foreheads with ashes. These souls are divided between God and the world; and she trembles as she thinks on the danger they are about to incur by receiving holy Communion without the preparation of a true conversion. Yet, on the other hand, she remembers how it is written that the bruised reed is not to be broken, nor the smoking flax to be extinguished.(1)-{Is. Xlii 3} Let us pray for these souls, whose state is so full of doubt and danger. Let us, also pray for the priests of the Church, that they may receive from God abundant rays of that light, whereby Jesus knew what was in man.(p. 332-3)

Liturgy for Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

[Dom Prosper describes the ceremony of the Church (even in his century) which took place on Wednesday of this Fourth Week, when those preparing to be received into the Church, went through an elaborate but wonderfully beautiful ceremony, and the explanation of the Our Father Since this is very lengthy, and will be treated and published at another time, it is so worth reading for everyone in order to better understand the "Why" of the laws and disciplines of the True Church, and it shows clearly how the VulgArians have established a totally false religion, one of idolatry, that will certainly bring down God's wrath on the good and the evil! For those who have access to the Fifth Volume, please see page 342-52.]

    For the Gospel of Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent... Our Savior asks him (the blind man), as the Church asked us on the day of our Baptism: Dost thou believe in the Son of God? The blind man, ardently desiring to believe, answers eagerly: Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him? Faith brings the weak reason of man into union with the sovereign wisdom of God, and puts us in possession of His eternal truth. No sooner has Jesus declared Himself to be God, than this simple-hearted man falls down and adores Him: he that from being blind is blessed with bodily sight is now a Christian! What a lesson was here for our catechumens! At the same time, this history showed them, and reminds us, of the frightful perversity of Jesus' enemies. He, the pre-eminently Just Man, is shortly to be put to death, and it is by the shedding of His Blood that He is to merit for us, and for all mankind, the cure of that blindness in which we were all born, and which our own personal sins have tended to increase. Glory, then, love, and gratitude be to our divine Physician, who, by uniting Himself to our human nature, has prepared the ointment, whereby our eyes are cured of their infirmity, and strengthened to gaze, for all eternity, on the brightness of the Godhead! (p. 359).

Reflections on the Epistle and Gospel for Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

    This dead child [in today's Epistle] is the human race; sin has caused its death, but God has resolved to restore it to life. First of all, a servant is sent to the corpse; this servant is Moses. His mission is from God; but, of itself, the Law he brings gives not life. This Law is figured by the staff which Giezi holds in his hand, and which he lays upon the child's face; but to no purpose. The Law is severe; its rule is one of fear, on account of the hardness of Israel's heart; yet is it with difficulty that it triumphs over his stubbornness; and they of Israel who would be just must aspire to something more perfect and more filial than the Law of Sinai. The Mediator who is to bring down from heaven the sweet element of charity, has not yet come; He is promised, He is prefigured; but He is not made flesh; He has not yet dwelt among us. The dead child is not risen. The Son of God must Himself come down.

    Eliseus is the type of this divine Redeemer. See how he takes on himself the littleness of the child's body, and bows himself down into closest contact with its members, and this in the silence of a closed chamber. It was thus that the Word of the Father, shrouding His brightness in the womb of a Virgin, united Himself to our nature, and, as the apostle expresses it, emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men,(1)-{Phil. Ii 7} that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly(2)-{St. John x 10} than when it was given to them at the beginning. He breathes seven times: the Holy Ghost with His seven gifts, is to take possession of man's soul and make it His temple. The child opens his eyes: the blindness of death is at an end. Neither must we forget the Sunamitess, the mother of the child: she is the type of the Church, who is praying her divine Eliseus to give her the resurrection of her dear catechumens, and of all unbelievers who are dwelling in the region of the shadow of death.(1)-{Is. Ix 2} Let us join our prayers with hers, and beg that the light of the Gospel may be spread more and more, and that the obstacles, opposed by satan and the malice of men to its propagation, may be for ever removed. (p. 365-6).

    ...Before entering on the two weeks which are to be devoted to the commemoration of our Savior's Passion, the Church shows her children the tender mercies of Him Whose Blood is to purchase our reconciliation with divine Justice [in the Gospel]. She would have us argue, for our own consolation, that from such a Savior we may well hope for pardon. Being thus rid of our fears, we shall be the more at liberty to contemplate the Sacrifice of our august Victim, and compassionate His sufferings. Let us attentively consider the Gospel just read to us. A heart-broken mother is following to the grave the corpse of an only son. Jesus has compassion upon her; He stays the bearers; He puts His divine hand on the bier; He commands the young man to arise; and then, as the Evangelist adds, Jesus gave him to his mother. This mother is the Church, who mourns over the death of so many of her children. Jesus is about to comfort her. He, by the ministry of His priests, will stretch forth His hand over these dead children; He will pronounce over them the great word that gives resurrection; and the Church will receive back into her arms these children she had lost, and they will be full of life and gladness. (p. 367).

    ...The mystery of Jesus' Resurrection is to produce this wonderful effect in them (sinners). Let us take our humble share in these merciful designs of God; let us, day and night, offer our supplications to our Redeemer, that, in a few days hence, seeing how He has raised the dead to life, we may cry out, with the people of Naim: A great Prophet is risen up among us, and God hath visited His people!

Reflections for the Epistle and Gosepl for Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent

    ...There suddenly arose from the midst of the Roman empire, demoralized as it was and corrupt beyond imagination, a race of men of angelic purity; and these very men had, but a short time before their Baptism, wallowed in all the abominations of paganism. Whence had they derived this sublime virtue? From the Christian teaching, and from the supernatural remedies it provides for man's spiritual miseries. Then it was that unbelievers sought for the true faith, though they knew it was at the risk of martyrdom; they ran to the Church, asking her to become their mother, and saying to her: We know that thou art of God, and the word of the Lord in thy mouth is true. (p. 372).

    [For the Gospel:] Let us meditate upon this admirable history; and as we meditate upon this admirable history, let us hope; for it not only shows us what Jesus does for the souls of others, but what He has done for ours. Let us, also, renew our prayers for the penitents, who now throughout the world, are preparing for the great reconciliation. It is not a mother that is here represented as praying for the resurrection of her child; it is two sisters asking this grace for a brother. The example must not be lost on us: we must pray for one another... (p. 377)

    ...There is no voice but that of Jesus which can call him (a sinner) to conversion, and touch his heart, and bring him to confess his sins; but Jesus has put into the hands of priests the power to loose, enlighten, and give movement. This miracle (of raising Lazarus from the dead), which was wrought by our Savior at this very season of the year, filled up the measure of His enemies' rage, and set them thinking how they could soonest put Him to death. (p. 378).

Reflections on the Readings for Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

    [For the Epistle]...If the grace of God has found you submissive, if the holy exercises of Lent and the prayers offered for you by the Church have had their effect, and you are now preparing to make your peace with God, red these words of your heavenly Father, and fear not! How can you fear? He has given you to His own Son; He has told Him to save, heal, and comfort you. Are you in the bonds of sin? Jesus can break them. Are you in spiritual darkness? He is the light of the world, and can dispel the thickest gloom Are you hungry? He is the Bread of life. Are you thirsty? He is the fountain of living water. Are you scorched, are you burnt to the very core, by the heat of concupiscence? Even so, poor suffers! You must not lose courage: there is a cool fountain ready to refresh you, and heal all your wounds; not indeed the first font, which gave you the life you have lost; but the second Baptism, the divine Sacrament of Penance which can restore you to grace and purity! (p. 383-4).

    Today, they (the pharisees) have the audacity to make this objection to Jesus' being the Messias: that He gives testimony in His own favor! Our Blessed Lord, who knows the malice of their hearts, deigns to refute their impious sarcasm; but He avoids giving them an explicit answer. It is evident that the light is passing from Jerusalem, and is to bless other lands. How terrible is this punishment of a soul that abuses the truth, and rejects it by an instinctive hatred! Her crime is that sin against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come(1)-{St. Matt. xii 32} Happy he that loves the truth, though it condemns his evil passions, and troubles his conscience! Such an one proves that he reserves the wisdom of God; and if it do not altogether rule his conduct it does not abandon him. But happier far he that yields himself wholly to the truth and, as humble disciple, follows Jesus. He walketh not in darkness; he shall have the light of life. Let us, then, lose no time, but take at once that happy path marked out for us by Him who is our light and our life. Keeping close to His footsteps, we went up the rugged hill of Quarantana, and there we witnessed His rigid fast; but now that the time of His Passion is t hand, He invites us to follow Him up another mount, that of Calvary, there to contemplate His sufferings and death. Let us not hesitate; we shall be repaid; we shall have the light of life. (p. 385-6).



    Joy of Lent
    LIVING IN TRADITION