Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. -Isaiah 60:1
My Dear Friends,
A few weeks ago, as I began to gather my thoughts for this message, I recalled one of my favorite Lenten hymns, “The Glory of These Forty Days.” The hymn is striking in its use of the word glory during a season in which we are told to repent, make personal sacrifices, and give up things that we enjoy, albeit for a short period of time. My thoughts also turned to all of the struggles we have encountered this past year related to the pandemic. One can certainly make a very strong case that these struggles are not instances of glory in our lives. We have all been called upon to make personal sacrifices and to give things up that we enjoy for far longer than forty days.
“The Glory of These Forty Days” is a very old hymn attributed to Pope Saint Gregory I, more commonly known as Gregory the Great. Its antiquity points to its bearing an important truth that may have become obscured as Lent developed over the centuries. The forty days refer to Jesus’ forty days spent in the desert. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke report this event in the life of Jesus and recall them as days of hunger, loneliness, thirst, and temptation. These days could not have been easy for Jesus yet the hymn celebrates them as days of glory.
Each Lent, we are typically asked the question: “What are you giving up for Lent?” The answer is usually an item of food or drink that we enjoy, perhaps too much, during the rest of the year. Our intention is good, but the question is wrong. Lent quickly descends into yet another life-choice and we set ourselves up for failure if we falter, which we most certainly will. Jesus didn’t falter during his forty days of “glory” in the desert, did he? He was tempted. We are tempted.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his general audience over the past several months has focused on a catechesis of prayer. In his most recent audience, he spoke of personal prayer in our daily life. He spoke of a temptation that we are prone to each day, the temptation of constantly looking to the future instead of understanding that “there exists no other wonderful day than the day we are living.”
I challenge us this Lent, to add something to the season, instead of giving something up. Let us take the opportunity to add prayer to our lives and dialogue with God. Lent is a time for prayer, more prayer, better prayer, personal prayer, liturgical prayer. Prayer can turn us away from ourselves and help us to understand that the trials we face are instances of glory in our lives.
Lent looks to Easter and to the triumph of the Paschal Mystery of our Lord. His victorious passing over death to Risen Life was prefigured in His victory over temptation in the gloom and despair of the desert and it is repeated for us all on the Cross and in the Resurrection. Let us determine to enter into this season of God’s grace according to our own abilities and turn more fully to the Lord through prayer. It is in so doing that we will come to realize that the glory in our lives far exceeds forty days.
I extend my prayerful best wishes to you for a holy and prayer-filled Lenten season! May God bless you and those you hold dear.
Sincerely yours, Monsignor Dale R. Rupert Pastor, Cathedral of Saint Peter