Since we live in an era when customs and traditions have faded and tend to lose their meaning, it’s good to remind ourselves that, concluding the spiritual preparation of Lent, Holy Week is the annual commemoration of the Passion of Christ. It’s not just another religious tradition. We aren’t celebrating the fact that the Son of God suffered and died, but Catholics are recognizing and honoring His sacrifice, accompanying Him spiritually and physically, as if we had been there with Him, two thousand years ago.
Painting Easter eggs is a beloved ancient tradition for Eastern Catholic churches as well as Orthodox. The eggs are often dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross. The Easter eggs are then carried to the church in baskets to be blessed by the priest at the end of the Easter vigil before being distributed to the faithful. Historically, Christians would abstain from eating eggs during a strict Lent, so Easter was the first chance to eat eggs again after a long period of abstinence. The egg represented the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represented Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Towards the end of Lent you may notice purple cloths draped over crucifixes, statues, and images of saints in your church. In some churches, these items are actually removed from the sanctuary altogether.
This old custom of veiling religious images is a way of focusing on the penitential aspect of this liturgical season. It reminds us in a visual way that our faith is made possible only through the work of Christ in his suffering and death on the cross.
Although most popular during Lent, this season is not the only good time to pray the Stations of the Cross. It is always recommended to the faithful to meditate on Christ’s Passion frequently, especially on Fridays as a perpetual day of penance, to obtain graces and grow in holiness. “There is no practice more profitable for the entire sanctification of the soul than the frequent meditation of the sufferings of Jesus Christ.” – St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Fasting is an ancient spiritual discipline taught in the Bible, and modeled for us by Jesus himself during his forty-day sojourn into the wilderness in preparation for his earthly ministry. Why is fasting so important in the life of a Christian? Below are three reasons as described by St. Thomas Aquinas.
It should not surprise us that fasting is beneficial to our bodies and our minds as well as our souls, since as human beings, we are made up of all three. When something benefits one of our faculties, it benefits all of them. The integration of body, mind, and soul is, in fact, a goal of many spiritual pursuits. Actually, fasting has a long history as a healing tradition.
Penance simply means the repentance of sins by taking some form of action in reparation for that sin. Just as we sinned by actually committing or omitting something we shouldn’t have, so we should do penance by actually committing or omitting something to make up for it. The reason for this is that doing penance turns our hearts and souls away from sin and back on the right path towards God and towards a life of holiness.
Jesus taught us clearly that there is no resurrection without the Cross, and Lent is the Church’s great spiritual journey as she, the Bride of Christ, joins her Divine spouse in His great suffering on our behalf. Basically, you don’t get the joy of Easter without the self-sacrifice of Lent; the disciples of Jesus follow in his footsteps . . . including the bloody ones. Here’s a rundown of everything major you need to know about the Lenten season, the 40+ days of penance to prepare our hearts Easter, the greatest of all Christian feasts.
February 14th is the traditional day of celebration for lovers. It’s the proper occasion for writing love letters and sending tokens of love to those who have captured your heart. This custom began in Europe during the High Middle Ages, the pinnacle of the age of courtly love, and is captured in immemorial English literature as the mid-Feburary day when birds (and lovers) first begin to pair.
To celebrate Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus as the Son of God and the Light of the World, there exists an ancient custom of the faithful having their homes and buildings blessed with Epiphany water, and the entryways chalked with a ‘holy formula’: The current New Year along with the initials C, M, B, which are the initials of the Magi as well as the initials of the invocation Christus Mansionem Benedicat (Christ bless this house). This marks their homes and buildings, and all that belongs to them, under the dominion of the newborn Christ the King.