QUINQUAGESIMA SUNDAY AND INSTRUCTION ON LENT

What is Quinquagesima?

The period of fifty days before Easter. It begins with the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, called Dominica in Quinquagesima or Esto Mihi from the beginning of the Introit of the Mass; it is a Sunday of the second class, and the colour the Mass and Office is violet.

For many early Christians it is the beginning of the fast before Easter, hence called, as with the Syrians, Dom. ingressus jejunii. For some, Quinquagesima marked the time after which meat was forbidden and was therefore called Dom. carnis privium, ad carnes tollendas, carnevala; by the Poles, Ned. zapustna. Since these regulations affected mainly the clergy, we find the name carnis privium sacerdotum and in Germany herren fastnacht. Where abstinence from meat began earlier, this Sunday introduced the time in which neither milk nor eggs etc, (ova et lacticinia) were allowed, hence called by the Greeks Dom. cesei comestrix et ovorum; Italians, de’latticini; In many places this Sunday after and the next two days were used to prepare for Lent by a good confession; hence in England we find the names Shrove Sunday and Shrovetide.

As the days before Lent were frequently spent in merry-making ›carnivals‹, Benedict XIV (March  31,1675 – † May 3, 1758) with the Encyclical ›Inter Cetera‹ (January 1, 1748.) « Among the many things that disturb us, when we should tolerate in our temporal state the fun of Carnival, two are found, over which some zealous bishops of the aforementioned state have complained to us, expressing their right complaints or voice or for signed up. One consists in the fact that most of the time the vigils, the dances, the games are forwarded on the last night of Carnival which also starts the beginning of the first day of Lent; in such a way it happens sometimes to see that people, starting from the dance, from the game and from the vigil, go, although without mask but with the clothes with which they are masked, to the Church to hear the Mass and take the Ashes to their houses, sleeping in their beds at least the whole morning of the first day of Lent; nor does he allow himself to be accused of indiscreet to the Bishop, if he complains and much more if he wants to punish the excess. »  The Pope therefore introduced a kind of Forty Hours’ Devotion to keep the faithful from dangerous amusements and to make some reparation for any sins they have committed. 

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INTRODUCTION

On this Sunday the Church, in the Introit, calls upon God for help, with a sorrowful but confident heart. « Be thou unto me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge, to save me, for thou art my strength and my refuge; and for thy name’s sake thou wilt lead me, and nourish me. In thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me never be confounded: deliver me in thy justice. » (Psalms 30:3, 4, 2). Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

PRAYER. 

Prayer IconMercifully hear our prayers, O Lord, we beseech Thee, and, absolving us from the bonds of sin, preserve us from all adversity. Through Our Lord, etc. Amen. 

EPISTLE. 1 Corinthians 13:1–13. 

Brethren: If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known. And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity. 

EXPLANATION. 

St. Paul here teaches the Romans, and us in them, the necessity, the qualities, and the advantages of charity: 

The necessity—because all natural and supernatural gifts— all good works, virtues, and sacrifices—even martyrdom itself —cannot save us if we have no charity. By charity only are we and our works pleasing to God. 

The qualities of charity—which are good-will without envy, suspicion, perversity, or malice; pure intention without self love, ambition, immodesty, or injustice; untiring patience without hastiness; and, finally, humble submission to God, Who is all to him that possesses charity. 

The advantages of charity—in that it gives to good works their value, and that it never fails; for while all things else cease—while faith passes into seeing, hope into possession, knowledge in part into knowledge of the whole—charity is ever lasting, and therefore the greatest of the three. ›Faith,‹ says St. Augustine, ›lays the foundation of the house of God; hope builds up the walls; charity covers and completes it.‹ 

ASPIRATION. 

O God of love, pour into my heart the spirit of charity, that, according to the spirit of St. Paul, I may always endeavour to be in the state of grace, that so all my works may be pleasing to Thee, and of merit to me. Amen. 

GOSPEL. Luke 18:31–43. 

At that time: Jesus took unto him the twelve, and said to them: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things shall be accomplished which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of man. For he shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and scourged, and spit upon: And after they have scourged him, they will put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things, and this word was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said. Now it came to pass, when he drew nigh to Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the way side, begging. And when he heard the multitude passing by, he asked what this meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying: Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. And they that went before, rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried out much more: Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus standing, commanded him to be brought unto him. And when he was come near, he asked him, Saying: What wilt thou that I do to thee? But he said: Lord, that I may see. And Jesus said to him: Receive thy sight: thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he saw, and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. Laus tibi, Christe.

Why did Our Saviour so often predict His sufferings to His apostles? 

i. To show that He already knew of them, thereby indicating His omniscience; and that, ii. He desired to suffer. iii. In order that His disciples should not be scandalised at His humiliation, nor think evil of Him as if He had deceived them, but, by remembering His words, be rather confirmed in their belief in Him as the Son of God and Redeemer of the world. 

Did not the apostles understand anything of what He thus predicted in regard to His sufferings? 

They may have known that He was to suffer, for St.Peter taking him, began to rebuke him, saying: Lord, be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee. (Matthew 16:22), but they did not comprehend why or for what He would suffer, or how He would rise again. All this the Holy Ghost gave them to understand, after it had come to pass. (John 14:26) The light of the Holy Ghost is of so much value, that without it even the clearest doctrines of faith are not understood.

Why does Christ so often call Himself the Son of Man?

He wished to show, in the Jewish way of speaking, He was also man, a descendant of Adam, and that we should be humble, and not seek or desire high titles.

Why did the blind man call Christ the Son of David?

Because, like all the Jews, he believed that the Messiah, according to humanity, would be of the house of David, as was promised « The Lord hath sworn truth to David, and he will not make it void: of the fruit of thy womb I will set upon thy throne. » (Psalms 131:11)

Jesus heals the blind man
Jesus heals the blind man.

What should we learn from this history of the blind man? 

i. The inexpressible misfortune of blindness of the heart—a state in which we know not our God, our Redeemer and Sanctifier, and see neither the way of divine life, nor the hindrances to our salvation, but grope about in the darkness of ignorance and sin. ii. Where to find One Who will save us from this awful condition, in Jesus Christ healing and enlightening us through and in His Church. iii. The holy zeal and perseverance with which we should seek and call upon Him for deliverance, disregarding alike the bad examples, persecutions, and mockery of the world. iv. How fervently we should thank God, and how faithfully we should follow Him, after He has opened the eyes of our soul and freed us, by His grace, from the spiritual blindness of sin. 

PRAYER

Prayer IconO most benign Jesus! who didst so desire to suffer for us, grant, that we may willingly suffer for love of Thee; that we may hate and flee from the detestable pleasures of the world and the flesh, and practice penance and mortification, that by so doing we may merit to be released from our spiritual blindness to love Thee more and more ardently, and finally possess Thee forever.

INSTRUCTION ON LENT

Who instituted Lent?

According to the fathers of the Church, Justin and Irenaeus, the fast before Easter was instituted and sanctified by Christ Himself; according to the saints Leo and Jerome, the holy apostles ordained it given by Jesus.

Why has the Church instituted this fast forty days before Easter?

To imitate Christ who fasted forty days; to participate in His merits and sufferings; to subject our flesh by voluntary mortification to the spirit, and to mortify our evil desires as did St. Paul; « Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church; » (Colossians 1:24) to enable us to lead a pure life, and thus prepare for the holy festival of Easter, and the reception of the divine Lamb, Jesus: and, finally, to render God satisfaction for our sins, and do penance, as Pope Gregory says, for the sins of one whole year by one short fast, lasting only the tenth part of a year.

Was the fast of Lent observed in early times as in the present?

Yes, but more strictly; for the people of the early ages not only abstained from meat, but also from all that which is connected with it, such as eggs, butter, cheese, etc., even from wine and fish, although this was not the general command of the Church; they fasted all day, and only ate in the evening after vespers, in remembrance of which, vespers are now said before dinner time, because the Church, as a kind mother, now permits the supper to be changed into a dinner, and also allows something to be taken in the evening, that the body may not be too much weakened, and become unfit for labor.

How much does this ancient custom put to shame the Christians of today who think the fast in our times too severe! ›But,‹ asks St. Ambrose, ›what sort of Christians are they? Christ, who never sinned fasted for our sins, and we will not fast for our own great and numerous offences?‹

How should the holy season of Lent be spent?

As according to the teaching of St. Leo, the main thing in fasting is not that the body be deprived of food, but that the mind at the same time be withdrawn from wickedness, we should endeavour during Lent, not only to be temperate in eating and drinking, but especially to lead a modest life, sanctifying the days by persevering prayer and devoutly attending church.

Prayer at the beginning of Lent

Almighty God! I unite myself at the beginning of this holy season of penance with the Church militant, endeavouring to make these days of real sorrow for my sins and crucifixion of the sensual man. O Lord Jesus! in union with Thy fasting and passion, I offer Thee my fasting in obedience to the Church, for Thy honour, and in thanksgiving for the many favours I have received, in satisfaction for my sins and the sins of others, and that I may receive the grace to avoid such and such a sin, N. N. and to practice such and such a virtue, N. N.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

So why, you may ask yourself, is this gospel read on this Sunday? The Church wishes to remind us of the painful passion and death of Jesus, and to move us by the contemplation of those mysteries to avoid and despise the wicked, heathenish amusements of carnival, sinful pleasures which she has always condemned, because they come from dark paganism, and, to avert the people from them, commands that during the three days of carnival the Blessed Sacrament shall be exposed for public adoration, sermons given, and the faithful exhorted to have recourse at this time to the Sacraments of Penance and the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, with the reception of which Pope Clement XIII (March 1693 – † 2 February 1769). (Breve, 23. June 1765) connected a plenary indulgence. A true Catholic will conform to the desire of his holy Church, considering the words which St. Augustine spoke, at this time, to the faithful, « The heathens (as also the wordly people of our days) shout songs of love and merriment, but you should delight in the preaching of the word of God; they rush to the dramatic plays, but you should hasten to Church; they are intoxicated, but you should fast and be sober. »

St. Paul spoke of the necessity, the excellence and the nature of true charity. He says that all natural and supernatural gifts, all good works, even martyrdom, cannot save us if we have not charity; because love alone can render our works pleasing to God. Without charity, therefore, though ever so many prayers be recited, fasts observed , and good deeds performed, nothing will be acceptable to God, or merit eternal life. Strive then, O Christian soul, to lead a pious life in love, and to remain always in the state of grace.