Sunday, February 10, 2013
Preparing for Lent: Fr. Andersen
A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, OR
February 10th, 2013
Dominica V Per Annum, Anno C
Next week, we will enter into the holy season of Lent. The first Sunday of Lent is unique among all other Sundays in the liturgical year. This is due to the music which the Church assigns to this Sunday. You recall that during Lent, we will not sing the Alleluia to prepare for the hearing of the Gospel. In its place, there is the option of singing a simple verse such as: “Praise to you O Christ, King of Eternal Glory.” But for each Sunday of Lent, the Church has composed a piece of music called a ‘Tract’ which replaces the Alleluia. The Tract is a meditative piece of music which is given to us to prepare us to hear the Gospel. On the First Sunday of Lent, the Tract is approximate 18 minutes long. That is quite different from singing a short verse such as “Praise to you O Christ, King of Eternal Glory”. It takes less than one minute to sing that. The tract normally will take about 5 minutes each Sunday, but on the first Sunday of Lent, the Tract takes about eighteen to twenty minutes. Why? Why so long?
The Church wants to get our attention. This very long preparation for the Gospel on the first Sunday of Lent reminds us of the very long time of preparation which God spent between the time of the creation of the world and the salvation of the world through Jesus Christ. The Gospel has come to us after a long time of preparation and so we share in that long time of preparation as we prepare to hear that Gospel. Jesus too has spent a long time in preparation: forty days and forty nights of fasting and prayer in the wilderness. After about five minutes, you might find yourself saying, “this is long.” After ten minutes, you will stop waiting for it to be over. You will get lost in time and enter into the depth of prayer outside of time. It will be like eternity for a short while and then when the chant is finished, your soul will be quiet and at peace. You will then be ready to hear the Gospel like never before.
I am telling you now, a week ahead, so that you will not be surprised. But rather, prepare! Prepare now for Lent. Do not wait. Lent begins this coming Wednesday. Plan ahead. Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence. That means that we do not eat any meat on Wednesday. We may eat fish; we may eat eggs; we may eat cheese and drink milk, but we may not have meat. No beef. No pork. No lamb. No chicken. No sausage. This is true for every friday now during the whole year. No meat on any friday, but especially during Lent. Plan ahead. If you eat meat on Ash Wednesday or any friday during Lent, you will have to bring that to the Sacrament of Confession. We are also obliged to fast. That means that on Ash Wednesday we may eat one full meal and two smaller snacks that together add up to another full meal. That is not asking much. But we must be mindful and plan ahead. No parties. No mardi gras. We are entering into Lent.
This coming Friday and every Friday during Lent, you are invited to come here for the Way of the Cross and Soup Supper afterward. It is good for us to be social during Lent. We can be social while we are abstaining from meat, fasting and praying, and giving alms. Plan ahead. Put these things on your calendar so that you remember them. Now is the time to prepare for Lent: What are you going to give up? It must be something good that you give up. Give up watching television. Give up playing video games. Give up desserts. Give up something that you like that is not sinful but that is a distraction from growing closer to God. It goes without saying that you must give up all things sinful all year round. During Lent, you must give up something that is good.
In the Mass, we give up using musical instruments during Lent. The Church asks us to use only the human voice, but the organ may be used sparingly only to support the singing. There is nothing sinful about musical instruments, but we give them up because they are good and that is an way of fasting. As I mentioned earlier, the first Sunday of Lent is unique among all other Sundays in the liturgical year. All the music comes from Psalm 90. The Entrance chant, the Gradual/Responsorial Psalm, the Tract, the Offertory and the Communion chants all come from Psalm 90. That means that Psalm 90 has something very powerful to say to us on that Sunday. You will hear Psalm 90 next Sunday. You might look over it ahead of time. Read over the readings for Mass. Read over Psalm 90. What will God wish to say to you next Sunday at Mass?