Violet is a dark colour, ‘the gloomy cast of the mortified, denoting affliction and melancholy’.
A veiled and inward season, shrouded in purple.
Reading Isaiah 58 in a time of crippling drought, sweet as a promise.
Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined homesteads.”
As a Catholic convert, I always note stories of conversion, a way to remind myself of the enduring inexplicable gift of grace and the mystery there at the core of my life.
On Christmas Day in 1886 Paul Claudel attended High Mass at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. He was not particularly moved by the ceremony, which probably was presided over by the newly appointed archbishop. Claudel left and then returned for vespers. “It was the gloomiest winter day and the darkest rainy afternoon over Paris,” he wrote. He listened to the psalms and the Magnificat.
For the rest of his life he recalled that he “stood near the second pillar at the entrance to the chancel, to the right, on the side of the sacristy.” There one finds a fourteenth-century statue of the Virgin and Child. “Then occurred the event which dominates my entire life,” he wrote.
“In an instant, my heart was touched and I believed. I believed with such a strength of adherence, with such an uplifting of my entire being, with such powerful conviction, with such a certainty leaving no room for any kind of doubt, that since then all the books, all the arguments, all the incidents and accidents of a busy life have been unable to shake my faith, nor indeed to affect it in any way.”
It is the fifth Sunday in Ordinary time and the liturgical colour is green; but I find an echo of what was once Quinquagesima, the 50th day before Easter and the beginning of the fast, when the liturgical colour was already violet.
Our journey to Jerusalem, our Lent, is to be a journey into light, a journey into understanding the mystery of divine love in the passion of Christ. Can the lessons and the disciplines of Lent really do that for us? Certainly, that seems far-fetched, but then, that is the way of faith. God gives much in return for little; he gives all in return for nothing. All in return for nothing: that is the divine charity which, as St. Paul explains in today’s Epistle, is to be the very essence of our life as Christians. Faith is an excellent thing, no doubt, and so is hope, but they are only a beginning. In heaven there is no faith; in heaven there is no hope, because heaven is the knowledge and possession of that eternal good, towards which faith and hope can only aim. In heaven there is only charity, the bond of love which unites lover and beloved. Without that love, all our powers are worthless: “sounding brass and tinkling cymbal,” or noisy nonsense. With the best gift of charity, we have eternal life. “For what shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8.35).
Therefore our journey of Lent is not just a journey of faith and hope, but a journey of love, a journey whereby we become more firm in that bond of love which unites us to God. It is a journey whereby we grow up in love. “When I was a child, I spake as a child,” says St. Paul. We are like children who babble aimlessly. Lent is a time to grow up and put away childish things.
Bach Cantata for Quinquagesima Sunday
Reading Rod Dreyer on the influence and inspiration of St Benedict and what is needed today as the Church goes into global freefall in so many ways…
Well, what is evangelizing? Is it merely dispersing information? Or is there something more to it. The Benedict Option is about discipleship, which is itself an indirect form of evangelism. Pagans converted to the early Church not simply because of the words the first Christians spoke, but because of the witness of the kinds of lives they lived. It has to be that way with us too.
Pope Benedict XVI said something important in this respect. He said that the best apologetic arguments for the truth of the Christian faith are the art that the Church has produced as a form of witness, and the lives of its saints:
Yet, the beauty of Christian life is even more effective than art and imagery in the communication of the Gospel message. In the end, love alone is worthy of faith, and proves credible. The lives of the saints and martyrs demonstrate a singular beauty which fascinates and attracts, because a Christian life lived in fullness speaks without words. We need men and women whose lives are eloquent, and who know how to proclaim the Gospel with clarity and courage, with transparency of action, and with the joyful passion of charity.
The Benedict Option is about forming communities that teach us and help us to live in such a way that our entire lives are witnesses to the transforming power of the Gospel.