“The season of Lent is a time to renew and strengthen our relationship with God through daily prayer, acts of penance, works of fraternal charity”, said Pope Benedict XVI this Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus prayer with thousands of pilgrims and visitors gathered beneath his study window in St Peter’s Square.
The Pope also asked for the prayers of the faithful in the coming week. Over the next seven days starting sundown Sunday evening, the Pope and cardinals of the Roman Curia begin their Lenten Spiritual Exercises.
Held in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel, the theme for the week is “The communion of the Christian with God,” taken from the First Letter of John: “And our fellowship is with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ” (I John 1.3). This year the exercises will be led by Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo.
The exercises begin at 6 p.m. on Sunday with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Evening Prayer, followed by meditation and adoration and Benediction. In the coming days, there will be the celebration of Lauds and the Terce each morning, followed by Vespers, adoration and Benediction in the evening. Saturday, March 3, there will be a final meditation at 9:00.
The titles of each of the seven days of mediations are: “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”; “Communion and Life”; “Communion and Mercy”; “Breach of communion, sin”; “God is love”; “Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Prayer – The Holy Spirit”; and “Love and Faith.”
Pope Benedict XVI has no public or private appointments for the duration of the spiritual exercises. There will be no general audience this coming Wednesday.
Below a Vatican Radio Translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s Angelus reflections.
Dear brothers and sisters!
On this first Sunday of Lent, we find that Jesus, after having received baptism in the River Jordan from John the Baptist (cf. Mk 1.9), he is tempted in the desert(cf. Mk 1:12-13). The narrative of St. Mark’s is concise, devoid of the details that we read in the other two Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The desert of which we speak has different meanings. It may indicate the state of abandonment and loneliness, the “place” of man’s weakness where there are no supports and certainties, where temptation becomes stronger. But it may also indicate a place of refuge and shelter, as it was for the people of Israel who escaped from slavery in Egypt, where we can experience the presence of God in a special way. Jesus ” remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan” (Mk 1.13). St. Leo the Great says that “the Lord willingly suffered the attack of the tempter to defend us with his help and to teach us by his example” (Tractatus XXXIX, 3 De ieiunio quadragesimae: CCL 138 / A, Turnholti 1973, 214-215) .
What can this episode teach us? As we read in the Book of the Imitation of Christ, ” as long as he lives, man is never wholly free from the temptation… but with patience and true humility we become stronger than any enemy” (Liber I, c. XIII , Vatican City 1982, 37), patience and humility to follow the Lord every day, learning to build our life not outside of Him or as if He did not exist, but in Him and with Him, because He is the source of true life. The temptation has always been present in human history to remove God, to order our lives and the world on our own, relying solely on our own abilities.
Jesus proclaims that ” This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1.15), He announces that something new happens in Him: God speaks to man in an unexpected way, with a unique and concrete closeness, full of love, God becomes incarnate and enters the world of man to take sin upon himself, to overcome evil and bring man back into the world of God. But this proclamation is accompanied by a corresponding request for such a great gift. In fact, Jesus adds: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1.15), it is an invitation to have faith in God and to convert our lives each day to his will, directing all our actions and thoughts towards good. The season of Lent is a time to renew and strengthen our relationship with God through daily prayer, acts of penance, works of fraternal charity.
Let us fervently beseech the Blessed Virgin Mary to accompany us on our Lenten journey with her protection and may She help impress the words of Jesus Christ upon our hearts and in our life, to convert ourselves to Him. I also commend to your prayers the week of Spiritual Exercises that I begin this evening with my collaborators of the Roman Curia.
I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present for this moment of prayer. In these first days of Lent, I invite you to embrace the spirit of this holy season, through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As we do so, may the Lord accompany us, so that, at the end of Lent, we may worthily celebrate his victory on the cross. God bless all of you abundantly!
Interesting to compare the four articles currently posted about Lent, and to consider the tone and content of each.
PBs and Sister Mary’s seem to be easily the most positive, and avoid necrophilia.