A Lenten Alleluia
By Cyril Desbruslais sj, SAR NEWS
“You are an Alleluia people!” So said Augustine, the saintly bishop of Hippo, to his congregation over 1,500 years ago. And he was right. All Christians are an Alleluia people. Always. Even during Lent.
We may have suppressed the Alleluia during the Lenten liturgy, but that is only so that we can experience a special thrill and joy when we sing it, after a long wait, at the Easter vigil.
But the joy of Easter (Alleluia) is supposed to pervade us, even during Lent. Even during the Holy Triduum. Even while we do our Lenten penances — if we do them in the right spirit!
For the reason we cannot but always live in joy is that the Lord is Risen, really Risen! And this remains true, no matter what — even if we’re in the throes of economic recession or in danger of terrorist attack. We know he is risen and the power of the Resurrection is at work, transforming us, overcoming evil — slowly, but surely. Whatever be the awful situation we’re currently in, it cannot be the last word. And who cannot but rejoice in this.
In fact, the reason we do Lenten penances at all is precisely to open ourselves up to the grace and power of Easter, to link up more personally with the transforming work of the Spirit, to surrender ourselves to the unconditional love of the Father, in which we live and move and have our being.
Our little (or big) “sacrifices” are but gestures whereby we seek to die to our old selfish selves and think more of others. It is much more meaningful if we don’t merely fast or “give up” this or that delicacy or favourite pastime, but actually donate the oney saved to some poor person(s) or spend the time saved by ministering to some deprived or lonely one. It’s easier to live the Alleluia of what we are doing if we introduce that element of personal outreach.
Despite what some people think (and do!), the purpose of Lent is not to make ourselves (and our hapless fellows) as miserable as possible. It is not an occasion for the masochists in the Church to come out of the closet and have a field day.
Lent is a time for asceticism, but let’s not forget that asceticism and athlete come from the same Greek root. The athlete disciplines herself/himself for the sake of a goal. So does the Christian who does penances. And the goal aimed at is becoming more generous and unconditional in love. And that’s something to be happy about. To say the least!