Dear Friends and Benefactors,
To be able to gain benefit from Lent it is vital to understand just what it is all about. The standard notion of it is of a period of time in which one does a few penances in order to pay off the punishment for one’s sins. Better to pay off in the easier way as much as one can now than in the harder way later, in purgatory.
This is true as far as it goes, but there is much more to Lent than that.
Lent is a time of purification. Over time, our souls can become encrusted with a spiritual apathy, caused by ingrained bad habits which tend to pull us away from God and keep us preoccupied with purely earthly concerns, to the point where it can become almost impossible to practise our Faith with any real zeal or fervour. The house of the soul is cluttered; it needs a spiritual spring clean if it is to be really under the illumination and influence of God’s grace again.
This is where penance comes in.
Mortification of any kind, in conjunction with God’s grace, has for effect to scrape away the crust of bad habits from the soul, opening it to the light of God and enabling it to love and serve Him in earnest. The soul is like a bird in a cage: it longs to be free of guilt and tepidity and fly to God where its true happiness flies. Penance breaks open the bars and sets it free. It is for this reason that the saints loved mortification, sensing just how much supernatural good it did them. We need to pray for the same understanding and eagerness that they had and then begin the work in earnest.
Wishing you all God’s blessings,
Fr. Justin Swanton