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LENT and EASTER
Lent is the main penitential season of the Church's liturgical calendar. It is a period of forty days that commences on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. During this period, Christians recall the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert prior to his public ministry. It is also an invitation to be in communion with him in the wilderness in order to overcome temptations and sin. Lent is a period of personal and communitarian spiritual conversion and renewal. Three traditional practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving are particularly emphasised. The main liturgical colour of the season is Purple and it symbolises repentance.
Lent is followed by a three-day period known as "Triduum" - Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday - which is
the apex of the Liturgical year. These days commemorate Jesus's last supper with his disciples, his passion and death,
and the resurrection.
Following the Triduum is a fifty-day Easter season which begins with Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday and ends with Pentecost Sunday.
A Journey to Jerusalem, a Journey to Our Souls
A journey has a destination, a goal. At one point in the gospel, Jesus sets out resolutely on the road toward Jerusalem, preparing to do what he must to fulfill God's work of redemption. There will be healing and teaching along the way, but ultimately it will lead to the cross - and through the cross.
In fact, Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover feast, recalling God's mighty deeds at the time of the exodus. The feast commemorated how God delivered his people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt
to freedom in the Promised Land. It was at this time of year that Jesus was crucified. It was at this time that his followers experienced a new kind of deliverance, a new "passing over" from death to life, a mighty act of God that changed their lives forever.
This journey to Jerusalem is a road to our own souls. It calls us to examine our lives, to look within, to appreciate the personal invitations and insights that God gives to each of us. It calls us to value our travelling companions and to serve our neighbours. It also demands that we not avert our eyes from the ways we need to change. It asks us to turn from what is destructive in our lives and welcome the gospel message of hope.
Travelling this road is, therefore, not easy work. And yet, it is a celebration. It is meant to be healing for our wounds and renewal
for our minds. It is infused with God's compassion and guidance.
It brings wisdom and growth.
- From the Introduction, Journey to Jerusalem by Mark A. Villano
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I looked for him whom my heart loves,
I sought him without finding him. (Song of Songs 3:1)
Dawn breaks in the distance, in this painting by Sieger Köder. He chooses to focus on the tradition in John's gospel that Mary of Magdala came first and alone to the tomb on Easter morning. Mary is shown in the garden of Jesus' burial, surrounded by tombs and the symbols of death. She is clothed in brilliant red, which echoes the dawn. Our eye is drawn to her central position and kneeling posture. She is just turning in recognition of the risen One...
We are reminded that it was 'very early in the morning and still dark' when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. These words cast our consciousness back to the dawning of time, and the first day of Creation. The artist helps to set the stage for the resurrection and a new creation. In the distance the rising light of dawn seems to have pierced the wall and set it asunder. We wait for the moment when Jesus will emerge from the tomb to newness of life.
Mary is closely associated with the Song of Songs. From the fifth century onwards, at Ephesus and elsewhere, it has been the chosen reading for her feast. She is depicted as the one who constantly seeks the Beloved: 'I looked for the one I love, I sought him without finding him; I called him and he did not answer. I will rise and go about the city, through the streets and the squares; I will seek him whom my heart loves...' (Sg 3:1-3)...
May we seek you with the dedication and perseverance of Mary of Magdala and find you in the unexpected events of our lives.
May we follow her example and share her witness with our world as we join her in proclaiming your resurrection.
- Extract from Christ our Morning Star, by Magdalene Lawler, pp. 72-74.