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Friday after Ash Wednesday

The following is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875) -

THE station for to-day is in the church of the holy martyrs, St. John and St. Paul.

We are told, in this lesson from the prophet Isaias, what are the dispositions which should

accompany our fast. It is God Himself who here speaks to us——that God who had Himself

commanded His people to fast. He tells us that the fasting from material food is a mere nothing in His eyes, unless they who practise it abstain also from sin. He demands the sacrifice of the body; but it is not acceptable to Him, unless that of the soul goes along with it. The living God can never consent to be treated as were the senseless gods of wood and stone, which the Gentiles adored, and which were incapable of receiving any other than a mere external homage. Let, then, the heretic cease to find fault with the Church for her observance of practices, which he pretends to scorn as being material; it is he that grows material by his system of letting the body have every indulgence. The children of the Church fast, because fasting is recommended in almost every page of both the old and the new Testament, and because Jesus Christ Himself fasted for forty days; but they are fully aware that this practice, which is thus recommended and urged, is then alone meritorious, when it is

ennobled and completed by the homage of a heart that is resolved to reform its vicious inclinations. And after all, it would be an injustice, if the body, which has been led into guilt solely through the malice of the soul, were to be made to suffer, and the soul herself be allowed to continue in her sinful course. Hence it is that they whose ill-health prevents them from observing the bodily austerities of Lent, are equally bound to impose on their soul that spiritual fast, which consists in the amendment of their life, in avoiding everything that is sinful, and in the zealous performance of every good work in their power.

Alms-deeds is the third of the great penitential works: it is the sister virtue of prayer and fasting. For this reason, the Church puts before us, to-day, the instructions given by our Saviour on the manner in which we ought to do works of mercy. He puts upon us the duty of loving our fellow-men, without distinction of friends or enemies. God, who has created them all, loves them Himself; this is motive enough to make us show mercy to all. If He bears with them even when they are His enemies by sin, and patiently waits for their conversion even to the end of their lives, so that they who are lost are lost through their own fault, what ought not we to do, we who are sinners as they are, and their brethren, and created like them out of nothing? When, therefore, we do an act of kindness or mercy towards those who have God for their Father, we offer Him a most acceptable homage. Charity, the queen of virtues, absolutely requires of us the love of our neighbour, as being part of our love of God; and this charity, at the same time that it is a sacred obligation incumbent upon each member of the family of mankind, is, in the acts it inspires us to do towards each other, a work of penance, because it imposes upon us certain privations, and requires us to overcome every repugnance which nature stirs up within us, when we have to show this charity to certain

individuals. And finally, we must in our alms-deeds follow the counsel our blessed Saviour gives us; it is the one He recommended to us, when He bade us fast: we must do it in secret, and shun ostentation. Penance loves humility and silence; it has a dread of being noticed by men; the only one whose applause it seeks, is He who seeth in secret.

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Mar 02, 2023


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