Visit this page every week during Lent for new information and updates.
Carl Spitzweg’s Ash Wednesday invites us into the Lenten season with a spirit of introspective piety. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us to be less concerned with how others may see us, and warns against the “look at me” culture. The season of Lent is a time for us who are at a crossroads, to change our direction from darkness to light. We must remember to take a moment to refocus our attentions and think about our faith. Conversion doesn’t happen once and for all. It is an ongoing process in the life of a Christian. What can I do to renew my prayer life? From what can I fast to help me hear what God is asking of me? What can I do to help those who are in need?
FIRST WEEK OF LENT
The scene of The Temptation of Christ is a 12th–century detail of the magnificent mosaic program of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The figure of Christ in this mosaic sequence is unique - it is of Christ the Lawgiver, who reminds us that each time he rebuked the devil, he did so by referring to the written Word, the truth of God manifest in the Scriptures. Each time the hunger for food, for assurance from God, and for an easier way tempted him, Jesus found steady ground again recalling the Word of God - the source of where he came from and who he was called to be. We can use His example when dealing with temptation.
SECOND WEEK OF LENT
Francesco Zuccarelli invites us into the Transfiguration of Christ in his painting. The figures show what a person's natural response might be to such an amazing experience of the divine: Peter is almost prostrate in adoration, James’s arms are raised in praise, and John rests in a pious bow. Christ’s own gesture is one of openness, embrace, and ascent. He is giving himself fully to his Father with luminous and serene expression. Bringing together heaven and earth, the Transfiguration is a comprehensive experience in which the divine voice addresses the human heart through all of its senses: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
THIRD WEEK OF LENT
Quentin Matsys' painting of Jesus Chasing the Merchants from the Temple, uses thoroughly human faces to show the need for repentance and purification. The image invites us to see ourselves in it as well, to see and acknowledge honestly those areas of our lives needing a major cleaning. The variety of faces offer several entry points for us -the person on the ground, the one escaping, the one looking on, the one hiding, the one at a critical distance - where do we find ourselves in this image? How Jesus would see us if he walked into our room right now. Do we flee? Do we passively observe? Do we ignore?
FOURTH WEEK OF LENT
James Tissot’s famous Bible illustration series, the Interview between Jesus and Nicodemus strives to depict with careful attention to period detail the scene from John’s Gospel in which Nicodemus seeks out Jesus at night to learn more from him about his teaching. There is an intimacy between the figures of Jesus and Nicodemus. The image communicates the hospitality, warmth, and friendship that are available to us no matter who we are or when we arrive at Christ’s door. Jesus reaches over with one hand to reassure Nicodemus (and us) and invite his (and our) friendship: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”
FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
Vincent van Gogh's painting of The Sower is deeply evocative of death and letting go, though the subject matter of sowing seeds also brings with it the themes of hope and anticipation of new life. Death here pertains to the seed, to Jesus foreshadowing his own Passion, and to each of us facing finitude, both daily and at the end of our lives. Jesus’ words from the Gospel echo throughout the painting: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Like the sower in this painting, we should do our best to carry on God’s work even when we come to a crossroads or barrier in our path.
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION
Caravaggio’s The Denial of Saint Peter invites us into the poignant and tragic moment during the arrest of Jesus when Peter denies Him - a moment that is both heart-breaking and familiar to all of us. Jesus had foretold the scene, not condemning but plainly stating Peter’s need for healing, forgiveness, and faith. The story of the Passion is full of moments of violence, tragedy, heartache, and pain. We see ourselves in these moments and feel the heartache for the ways we have contributed to the suffering. May we stand with Peter around the fire in the soft light of healing truth.
Tintoretto’s dramatic interpretation of Christ Washing the Disciples' Feet is an excellent invitation to the whole Easter Triduum. Jesus shows the disciples that service to one another is the paramount expression of love for God and that we are showing our love for God when we selflessly provide for those in need. In the painting, two figures helping to undress one another’s feet show urgency. The figure on the bottom undoing the straps of his sandals shows obedience. The figure prayerfully seated in the back shows discernment, while those still seated at the table signify observation and dialogue. But the figure furthest away and most concealed in shadows shows suspicion and resistance....
The Master of the Karlsruhe’s depiction of the The Capture of Christ focuses on the first moment of the Passion. The image suggests that even here at his capture, he is already walking the way of Calvary. He is carrying a cross not made of wood, but of the whole human mess symbolized by the figures above him. On his way to Calvary, Some of the expressions on the faces in this scene are mean, some are curious, and some are suffering. To behold the faces is to encounter imperfect humanity, and perhaps discover ourselves somewhere in this messy bunch. Jesus bears the burden of it all - his expression is one of sorrow and perseverance. As Jesus perseveres, faith invites us to join him.
Jacopo di Cione’s altarpiece detail captures the moment of encounter between Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome at the empty tomb of Jesus, and the mysterious men dressed in white, angels heralding the Resurrection, just as they heralded the birth of Christ many years before. Immersed in the stories of God and God’s people which climax with the Good News of the Resurrection, the Easter Vigil is replete with scrolls, handed on to each of us to go and share. Like Mary Magdalene and the disciples after her, we are all sent with the Good News to all the world.
In this painting, Eugène Burnand invites us along as Peter and John run to the empty tomb on Easter morning. In Peter's face is the story of his experience of the Passion, the shock and anxiety, the fear and desperation, the guilt and heartbreak. John's, white garments convey purity and innocence, as well as new life. As the Beloved Disciple, he is a symbol of the Church, the symbol of those who will come and enter into the Death and Resurrection of Christ through the font of Baptism. The dawning faith allows the disciples to begin to understand, to begin to hope, and to begin to feel the joy of the Resurrection.
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.
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.