The picture above captures the moment of repose after we celebrated the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday one year. Mother Abbess had the inspiration to position the cross we had venerated as is shown. The relic of the True Cross is displayed with two red vigil lights, and the sanctuary is bereft of every other adornment.
Here we are at the beginning of this Lenten season. But even now, our faces are set towards Jerusalem and a certain hill outside the city where the drama of Christ’s redemptive love will reach its culmination. Those of us who are privileged to live by the liturgy and especially to sing the Church’s Gregorian Chant, are always energized with a new vitality. Lent is not only about lamenting our sins and mourning the pain of our loving Savior. It is that, to be sure. But if this rather negative orientation is not to become moribund, it must be balanced with the confident assuredness of God’s tender mercy. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that we should approach the throne of mercy with boldness. On Ash Wednesday, we chanted: “You have mercy on all, O Lord, and nothing do you hate of the things that you have made, dissimulating the sins of men for the sake of penance and sparing them, for you are the Lord our God” [my own translation of the Latin text]. These are not words of a slave trembling with fear before a harsh taskmaster. Rather, these are declarations of a well beloved child before his Father. They are audacious, considering that he is talking to God, after all! He even says that God dissimulates when He is forced to regard our sins, because of our repentance. The child has indeed been naughty, but he is sorry and he knows the Father will forgive him for love’s sake.
At the start of today’s Mass of the First Sunday of Lent, we have the Father speak: “He will invoke me and I will listen to him. I will rescue him and glorify him. With length of days I will fulfill him”. Jesus is the first object of the Father’s regard, and through Him we are included. The price of our salvation was Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. He, the well Beloved Son, was willing to suffer the seeming abandonment of the Father so that we could return to Him whom we had abandoned. Our first parents sinned, breaking their love relationship with God; and we the children of Adam and Eve have followed in their footsteps. But Jesus has come after us, taking our nakedness and death upon Himself, crying out with our voice and our dereliction. The Father has listened. He rescued Jesus from death by glorifying Him and raising Him from the dead. If we are joined with Jesus in His death by faith, then we will rise with Him in His life. We are children of God! Length of days, even to eternity, is our destiny, if we but suffer a little while. This is Lent. Let us begin!