SPRING TIME AND LENT – EASTER FUN FACTS
- The pretzel was a symbol of Easter at one time. Envision a big soft pretzel. The twists can be seen as arms crossing in prayer. In fact, back in the day, there were pretzel hunts instead of egg hunts. Some even believe that pretzels were invented with Lent in mind, as they could be baked without the use of animal parts.
- Time of Easter – movable feast, after the first Sunday after the full moon, which happens on, or after March 21, the Spring Equinox, follows the Jewish feast of Passover, or full moon of the Pashal.
- Penitential season of Lent, with three practices: prayer; fasting, and almsgiving.
Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel, calls us to pray, to fast, and to give alms: “when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites,” “when you fast, do not look gloomy,” “when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing” (Mt 6:5, 16, 3, respectively). As a Church, we ponder and pray over this call every Ash Wednesday. In a most profound way, the three spiritual exercises identified by Jesus are directed toward the nurturing of relationships.
Prayer: That process of listening to and responding to God’s daily call, sustains and nurtures our relationship with our triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Without prayer, personal and communal, this relationship is diminished, sometimes to the point of complete silence on our part. Every day the Spirit of Jesus invites us to enter into that serious conversion that leads to blessed communion. The Seven Penitential Psalms and the Songs of the Suffering Servant from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah are traditionally used for meditation and prayer during Lent.
The Stations of the Cross are traditionally prayed on the Fridays of Lent. The Stations of the Cross originated during the crusades when it was popular to visit Jerusalem to follow the steps to Calvary. After the Holy Land was captured, pilgrimages became a very dangerous affair. A desire arose to reproduce these holy places in other lands as a substitute pilgrimage.
It soon became popular to have outdoor markers indicate not only the scenes in Christ’s path to Golgotha, but also the actual distances from location to location. Crude markers eventually gave way to elaborate artwork depicting the events of Jesus’ trial, torture and execution. By the mid-18th century, the Stations were allowed inside the church and served as a focus for Lenten devotions.
The Stations help the participant make a spiritual pilgrimage to the major scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death. Prayers are said until the entire route is complete, enabling the faithful to more literally take up their cross and follow Jesus.
Fasting: A very special form of penance, and Jesus’ second call, has been a consistent part of our Catholic tradition. Fasting assists us in getting our own house in order. All of us have to deal with areas of servitude, whether in regard to smoking or alcohol consumption, misused sexuality, uncontrolled gambling, psychological hang-ups, spiritual obsessions, use of stimulants, immoderate use of the Internet, excessive amounts of television watching, or preoccupations with other forms of entertainment. By fasting and self-denial, by living lives of moderation, we have more energy to devote to God’s purposes and a better self-esteem that helps us to be more concerned with the well-being of others. .Although often used interchangeably, fasting refers to the amount of food consumed, while abstinence describes the type of food denied such as meat on Fridays. These forms of physical self-denial are practiced during Lent, as are other pious customs.
Almsgiving: The third call of the Lord is to give alms. Jesus was always concerned about those who were poor and in need. He was impressed by the widow who, though having so little, shared her resources with others: “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood” (Lk 21:3-4). To be a disciple of Christ means to live a life of charity. To be a disciple of Jesus is to live a life of stewardship, generously giving of our time, talent, and treasure.
- Spring – first signs of the season – You may see a robin that has returned North from its flight South for the winter months. Bright colors like yellow and green as well as pretty pastel shades are often associated with Easter as well as the many popular symbols such as eggs, spring lambs, bunnies and flowers. All of these things tend to symbolize and represent new life, growth and all of the joy that comes with the onset of the spring season months.
It is a traditional period where, for many countries, there is a definite move away from the cold, damp and bleak weather on to warmer and lighter days. There are colorful flowers growing such as crocuses, and new animals such as lambs and chicks being born.
The White Lily is the official flower of Easter. As they represent grace and purity, many churches and homes have chosen to decorate with the white lily for the holiday. In fact, they’re commonly known best as “Easter lilies.”
Even though it is known as a religious holiday, it still holds much joy and excitement for anyone who really looks forward to all the beautiful flowers of spring and the warm days of summer ahead.
Why are the statues covered during Lent in my parish?
Another Lenten custom is the draping of statues and crucifixes in purple cloth as a sign of mourning. This symbolically hides the heavenly glory realized by the saints. Occurring on the fifth Sunday of Lent, the covering of the sacred images adds to the sense of introspection and contrition.
Why is there no Gloria or Alleluia sung at Mass?
The Church teaches by absence as well as by presence, and Lent is a time of great loss. Eating is diminished and some foods forbidden a fast of the body. Music is scaled back, bells are silenced and the Gloria and Alleluia are dropped from the liturgy a fast of hearing. Statues are veiled and flowers and decorations disappear a fast of sight. Depriving the senses helps the faithful maintain focus on the internal condition of the soul rather than on externals.
- Patrick’s Day: It’s a global celebration of Irish culture on or around March 17. It particularly remembers St Patrick, one of Ireland’s patron saints, who is credited with spreading Christianity in Ireland during the fifth century. The anniversary of St. Patrick’s death on March 17 became a feast day in the Catholic Church.
The most common St. Patrick’s Day symbol is the shamrock. The shamrock is the leaf of the clover plant and a symbol of the Holy Trinity. According to legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to pagans. “The wearing of the green” refers to the custom of wearing green clothes or a shamrock, the national flower of Ireland, in your lapel.
Celtic, folk and traditional Irish pub songs will help get you in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit! Look for compilation CDs of traditional Irish songs or download some individual songs by The Chieftains, The Dubliners or other Irish bands.
- 6. Feast Day of St. Joseph: Baking of fresh rolls – bread.
Every March 19th New Orleans Catholics celebrate St. Joseph’s Day by constructing elaborate altars to honor the relief St. Joseph provided during a famine in Sicily. The tradition began in the late 1800’s when Sicilian immigrants settled in New Orleans.
Silence is golden… St. Joseph, the model of humility, and one of the world’s greatest saints, is often mentioned as being silent. This silence speaks volumes. In it, the Church realizes his faithfulness, his love and his acceptance of the Holy Will of God. St. Joseph was not a man of many words: he was a man of action. We have only one direct statement about his personality: in Matthew’s Gospel, he is described as “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19). His actions alone reveal everything else we know about him. He brings Mary and the Child she bears into his home when, in the sight of the world, he would be justified in divorcing her. He leads the expectant Mary into Bethlehem and flees with her and her Child into Egypt. When it is safe, he returns with the two into Galilee. He does all of this, because God asks it of him. He never hesitates. Each time we read that the angel spoke to Joseph, the following sentence begins with the action St. Joseph took. “Joseph awoke,” “Joseph rose,” “He went.” Each time he received a summons, his reaction was to follow the call immediately. Never once did he hesitate.
Edited by: Evan Macklin