Visit this page every week during Lent for new information and updates.
Canterbury Cathedral’s Corona Chapel includes an early 13th-century stained-glass depiction of the Resurrection. Light illuminates the coloured glass in the same way God’s divine light illuminates the stories of salvation history to allow these to speak to each generation. Just like stained glass, our lives can only yield their true meaning if seen by God’s divine light. As Christ rose from the dead, we too are offered the hope and possibility to escape that which keeps us captive. The Easter season is a joyful celebration of the Resurrection, and we are called to know and rejoice in Christ's triumph.
This 14th-century folio from an unknown Armenian manuscript depicts the women at the tomb and Jesus' descent into Limbo. Christ conquers Death not just for himself, but for all of humankind. He begins with the very first human, Adam, and all who have awaited the fullness of eternal life since creation. Meeting Adam, Christ takes on the role here of the New Adam, the Risen One who is the firstborn of the new creation and who paves the way for all of us to have eternal life. Thank You, Jesus, for the new life we receive in You. Help us to share Your gift of peace with others.
Andrea Mantegna’s The Dead Christ invites us to contemplate Christ’s broken body and to stand at his feet as his body is laid out in preparation for his entombment. Contemplating this image is an intense experience. We see the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet up close, but this does not have a gory effect. Instead we feel the utter exhaustion and emptying of oneself that we read on Christ’s face, and we are faced with the fact that he has given us all he had. Showing the feet of the dead Christ calls us to recognize the gift of service seen to its ultimate end of laying down one’s life for another. Standing at the feet of Christ, we are exactly where we are called to be.
The baptismal imagery from the Byzantine mosaic from Venice’s Basilica di San Marco, shows Christ washing the feet of the disciples. It demonstrates that Christ’s call to his disciples to do as he has done is a call for every Christian, every person born of the font, to live as a person ready to bend down to wash feet. On the evening of the Lord’s Supper when we receive the gift of Christ in the Eucharist, we too are all called to be a gift to others, in the ways we can love, serve, and care for them. We are called to imitate Christ in His humility, love and service towards others.
Wilhelm Morgner’s Entry of Christ into Jerusalem is an expressionist interpretation of the Gospel scene that leads us into Holy Week. Morgner portrays a common identity between Jesus and those who cheered to welcome him into the city. This identity is perceived by both Christ and the people, but differs in emphasis. The people cheering see a temporal identity: a Messiah, one of them who will become their liberator and restore Israel. But Jesus makes his way into Jerusalem to enter into the depth of the human condition through an unjust and violent death. He is Christ yesterday, today, and forever, and the story of his entry into Jerusalem is also the entry into this mystery which continues to govern our reality to this day.
FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
Palma il Vecchio’s Christ and the Adulteress invites us into the crowd standing with the Pharisees to hear how Jesus will judge the woman caught in adultery. It invites us into close proximity with Christ, creating an intimacy that inevitably leads one to examine his or her conscience. Christ’s direct gaze at us is the visual depiction of the words: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” His gaze is gentle but honest, firm but encouraging. Meeting Christ’s gaze is an opportunity for conversion. It is a chance to come into Christ’s truth and life, and to discover once again the dignity and vocation of being God’s beloved.
FOURTH WEEK OF LENT
Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Return of the Prodigal Son is perhaps the most famous and celebrated artwork depicting the parable of the prodigal son - also known as the parable of the forgiving father. Contemplating Rembrandt’s painting, one has deep compassion for the older brother. He is under the weight of his brokenness yet still stands apart from the loving embrace that would free and heal him. We pray for courage for him and for us too, to step forward into the loving, healing, merciful and forgiving arms of the Father. If we have not yet examined our conscience, repented of our sins and come back to the Lord, perhaps there is still a little time left - do not delay!
THIRD WEEK OF LENT
Alexey Pismenny depicts the Parable of the Fruitless Fig Tree in a composition of three related scenes. Each of these scenes is a moment in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 13. The depiction of the fig tree offers us an image of hope. It is no longer the barren fig tree that stands accused. The composition of these three scenes calls us to conversion, just like the parable told to those hearing the words of Jesus. Apart from God we wither in a fruitless existence that leads to eternal isolation. Jesus offers himself to keep us from this fate and calls us to life and communion in hope.
SECOND WEEK OF LENT
In Lorenzo Lotto’s Transfiguration of Christ we see Christ flanked by Moses and Elijah, in a triangular composition oriented toward heaven’s presence breaking in at the very top with God’s vertical words, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.” While still in our jumbled and imperfect reality, focus on Christ is our clear way forward. Entering our broken reality, Christ shows us that the cross and all that leads to it is real, but death does not have the final word. Listening to Christ as God commands, we find hope and joy in that mystery. Christ's transfiguration give us a glimpse of the destiny of those who follow His ways.
FIRST WEEK OF LENT
This scene of the temptation of Christ comes from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, a 15th-century book of hours, or personal devotional book created especially for Duke Jean de Berry. The scene is a conflation of the three temptations Jesus experienced in the desert. Our own suffering and pain can lead us to grasp tightly at our own reality, sometimes to the point of tearing our wounds even deeper. Conversion of heart means letting go and trusting in God’s healing love to mend the brokenness of our lives, but Christ, standing on top of this castle in the context of his temptation is an image that is meant to recall us to humility and conversion.
PRAYER FOR A FRUITFUL LENT
My precious and crucified Lord, I offer You this Lent.
I offer it to You with total abandonment and trust.
I offer You my prayers, sacrifices and my very life this day.
Do with me, Lord, as You will.
I pray that this Lent will be fruitful.
I know You have much to say to me and much to do in my life.
May this Lent be a time through which Your mercy is poured in abundance into my soul,
and into the souls of all Your faithful.
Dearest Lord, help me to especially see my sin, this Lent.
Humble me so that I may see clearly.
Give me courage and strength to confess my sins,
and to turn from them with all my heart.
Enlighten me with Your Holy Word, dear Lord.
Help me to come to know You and to deepen the gift of faith in my life.
Show me the plan You have for me,
and place my feet upon the path You have chosen.
Lord, I thank You for the fullness of Your perfect Sacrifice.
I thank You for holding nothing back,
giving Your life to the last drop of blood.
May I offer You my very life as a sacrifice,
trusting in Your mercy with every offering.
Keep me faithful to my Lenten promises,
and bring forth new life through these sacrifices of love.
Strengthen my prayer and make me holy.
Help me to turn to You, each day,
seeking Your sacred and pierced Heart.
Blessed Mother, you stood by your Son in His suffering and death,
stand by me, I pray, as I journey through this life.
Pray for me and offer me to Your Son,
that He may take me into His loving embrace.
Lord, Jesus, Son of the Living God,
have mercy on me a sinner.
Mother Mary, Mother of our Crucified Lord,
pray for us who have recourse to thee.
John Berney Crome’s Great Gale at Yarmouth on Ash Wednesday invites us into the Lenten season with a story told in the visual language of romanticism. This style of painting often showcased strong emotion through the power and majesty of nature. Ash Wednesday’s second reading calls out with urgency: “now is the acceptable time…now is the day of salvation.” Lent calls us to conversion, and conversion without delay. Ash Wednesday is the day to face, with the belief, that the breath of the Spirit seeks to drive away all that keeps us from the fullness of life.
Let us pray for a renewal and strengthening of our faith.
ASH WEDNESDAY AND LENT - WHAT IS IT?
The blessing of the ashes and the significance of the day: The priest dipping his thumb into ashes (collected from burnt palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday), marks the forehead of each with the sign of the cross, saying the words, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return" or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” By marking the sign of the cross with ashes on the foreheads of her children, the Church gives us:
a firm conviction that a) we are mortal beings, b) our bodies will become dust when buried and ashes if cremated, and c) our life-span is very brief and unpredictable;
a strong warning that we will be eternally punished if we do not repent of our sins and do penance; and
a loving invitation to realize and acknowledge our sinful condition and return to our loving and forgiving God with true repentance as the prodigal son did.
On Ash Wednesday, we are invited to effect a real conversion and renewal of life during the period of Lent by fasting, penance, and reconciliation.
“There is joy in the salutary fasting and abstinence of Christians who eat and drink less in order that their minds may be clearer and more receptive to receive the sacred nourishment of God's word, which the whole Church announces and meditates upon in each day's liturgy throughout Lent” (Thomas Merton).
Penance and Reconciliation
Lent is a time for forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the model given by Jesus. It was his teaching: “If any one wishes to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” and “Try to enter through the narrow gate.” Penance removes the weakness left by sin in our souls and it makes our prayers more fruitful. By receiving the ashes, we confess that we are sinners in need of the mercy of God, and we ask forgiveness for the various ways in which we have hurt our brothers and sisters. Let us allow the spirit of forgiveness to work its healing influence in our parishes and families.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS
We may not be able to pray together in our church, but here is a video, from which you can follow and pray the Stations of the Cross just as we would do in Church. Let us try and do this on Fridays in Lent, but especially on Good Friday.