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.
The end of the octave is the end of the Christmas feast proper, after which begins the longer Christmas season that extends either to the Baptism of the Lord for the Ordinary Form of the Mass (usually the Sunday after Epiphany) or the Purification of Mary for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (February 2 – Candlemas). However this understanding of a proper Christmas ‘feast’ in some Eastern traditions is also associated with the 12 Days of Christmas which culminates on Epiphany. Confusing? You bet. Unfortunately the confusion is not cleared by going deeper into Church history.
There are many beautiful and ancient traditions that come to us from the East in the form of special blessings that the Church performs on Epiphany: the blessing of water, chalk, and homes.
We can’t imagine a Nativity scene without those three royal travelers wearing jeweled crowns and rich robes, holding out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the newborn King of the Jews, while Mary and Joseph look on in wonder. This is the biblical event we celebrate each Christmas season on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany.