The liturgical cycle of stretching from Lent through Easter and Pentecost is an important season for our Christian formation and our ongoing pursuit of holiness. Lent is a mystery which transforms. Over the centuries it has even been called sacramentum, the Latin word chosen by the ancients to translate the Greek mysterion. This season will be effective in us when we fully, actively and consciously participate in it. Our Lenten discipline should include both personal penitential practices and works of mercy, spiritual and corporal. We should prudently plan and strictly implement our Lenten disciplines, our exercitia, and also be open to graces through sacramental confession. Go to confession!
During Lent our lives should mirror the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. Throughout Lent and into the Triduum, Holy Church’s sacred worship is systematically stripped down to the silent, dark stillness of a liturgical tomb before the spark is struck that ignites the Easter fire at the beginning of the Vigil. Sacramental realities are not less real than sensible realities. We are our rites. We die liturgically and rise again. Lent is a kind of microcosm of the experience of God’s chosen ones through salvation history and the pilgrimage of our individual lives guided along the path of our Lord’s Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension.
Speaking of pilgrimage, each of the days of Lent has its own mini pilgrimage destination, a “Station”. The Roman Stations are an ancient custom. There were and still are Station Masses each day during Lent. The clergy and people of Rome would gather at an appointed “collect” church and then march in solemn procession singing litanies and prayers to a nearby “standing still” church, the statio, where the pope or his deputy would say Mass. The names of the Roman Station churches are printed in the traditional Roman Missal and in people’s “hand missals”. The prayers and texts for the daily Mass often pertain to the patron saint of the Roman Station church, or to some historical event associated with the place.
The custom of Stations can be observed anywhere. In fact, the post-conciliar Novus Ordo Roman Missal and its Ordo (a little book containing practical information for the liturgy each day) recommends observance of local Stations. People gain special indulgences by visiting churches designated by the bishops where they live. Has your local bishop designated Station churches where you are? You might ask around and visit them.
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