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Feasts we like to celebrate
Actually one of the words of this title may be unnecessary: Are there some feasts we don’t like? Feasts- the praise we offer to the Lord, the ordinary but splendid moments when we share the angels’ heavenly liturgy, according to oriental theology; the purest of joys that we will know for all eternity.
Feasts we like to celebrate… Let us mention some of them: first, the feasts of the Universal Church, from the first Sunday of Advent to the Solemnity of Christ the King which is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, and between both of these, the waiting time of Advent, the joyful feasts of Christmas, the austere but splendid Lent and Holy Week, the glorious “alleluias” of Eastertide, and the other feasts and solemnities, even the small ones called the simple “memories”…
Now we should mention our Carmelite feasts: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Elijah the Prophet, Teresa of Jesus (of Avila) and John of the Cross… and don’t forget the “little Flower” of Lisieux, and Mariam of Galilee, and all our favourite saints and blesseds in the family of Carmel…
Finally we remember that we live in a country of many Churches: we are discovering some feasts we didn’t know in our own countries…
How can we share with you all that treasure? It’s almost impossible, but we will try.
"In that place of solitude,
Forty days, forty nights,
Will you, be guided by the Spirit?"
Liturgy of Lent
- Judean desert
For many the word Lent is still synonymous with sorrow, repentance, boredom … in short, “the desert”. But, is the desert really sad? Does not The Little Prince say that, “the desert is so beautiful it hides a well somewhere”?
The Word of God presents the desert as a place of temptation and testing certainly, but, it is also a place where love calls us to return to basics:
- Desert of temptation
"I remember the devotion of your youth,
How you loved me as a bride, following me in the desert … "(Jeremiah 2:2)
- Duccio di Buoninsegna : Temptations
But if we were unfaithful, if we had broken the covenant … would this love be lost forever?
It would be difficult to know the heart of our God!
"The unfaithful wife, I’ll seduce
I’ll drive her to the desert
I’ll speak to her heart.
She shall respond there as in the days of her youth. "(Hosea 2:16-17)
- Illustration of the Song of Songs
But this love, this tenderness, not received but rather found whenever we agree “to be led into the wilderness”, can not remain locked in the heart of him who has so received it.
We must look around and see … the others in distress, or simply in need of support … or of just a little love and friendship:
"This is the fast that I desire:
Release those bound unjustly
Untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
Sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
And not turning your back on your own."(Isaiah 58)
But also, forgive, and most importantly, accept and ask for forgiveness:
“When you bring your gift to the altar, if you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar go and first be reconciled to your brother. Then come back and offer your gift.”(Matthew 5)
And then joy flows down the road:
“Your light will spring up like the dawn … You will be like a watered garden …” (Isaiah 58)
- Sunrise over the desert
But then, fasting, penance, in short, everything that we once called 'the bonds' or 'the practice of Lent', does it not make more sense? Of course it does! As the Church reminds us in many prayers planned for this season.
Already, at Ash Wednesday we said emphatically:
Protect us in our struggle against evil.
As we begin the discipline of Lent,
Make this day holy by our self-denial.
But … to be exact, this is not required or prescribed, but a free choice to fight against the evil spirit, or rather to burst with love for a being who soars spontaneously and detest anything which hinders souls to run freely to meet the Beloved.
Those who practice sports, mountain climbing, or, more simply are desperate to succeed in something dear to their heart, know that they must pay the price that the choices and sacrifices impose. Are they the most ardent seekers of God? Besides, St. Paul reminds us strongly:
“In the stadium races, all run, but only one receives the prize. Therefore so run to win! Athletes deny themselves all sorts of things to obtain a perishable crown. But we do it, to win an imperishable crown. (…) That’s why I train my body so that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified”.(1Cor 9)
'Mine are the heavens and the earth is mine, and mine are the people the righteous are mine and mine the sinners, angels are mine and the Mother of God is mine and all things are mine, and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and for me.
What do you ask then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less, nor pay heed to the crumbs which fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your hear.' (The prayer of the soul enamoured)*
Lived well, the asceticism of Lent is that purification of the impatient expectation of the Beloved.
'The closer it gets …' yes, the hour approaches! That’s when the Judean desert, usually so dry, begins to fill with flowers…
- The Little Prince and the Fox
As the fox said to the Little Prince:. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am!”
Then, not long, forty days. And when we know that after these forty days He will be there, streaming with light in the glory of His resurrection … we “dress” our hearts for the meeting.
*Translation by Fr Kieran Kavanaugh, ocd.
Message of The Holy Father Benedict XVI for Lent 2011
Easter - On the way to Emmaus
- Mosaic, Map of the Holy Land, Madaba
That very day – the first of the week – two of disciples were going to a village named Emmaus.
(Luke 24, 13)
They are walking silently. What’s the use of speaking? That story ended three days ago; all in what they believed, their dreams about freedom, about the the re-establishment of David’s Kingdom … and what now?
Distressed, brokenhearted they are returning home.
Suddenly a shadow falls between Cleopas and his fellow traveller; someone joins them. Someone who breaks the heavy silent and drips on the dried out land of their hearts some drops of the living water of the Lord’s Word:
“O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
“Abraham drew near, and said,”Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? … Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?“”Abraham! Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love… Isaac said: Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.“”So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and cast him into a pit.““Do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.””The scepter shall not depart from Judah.“”But you, O Bethlehem Ephrata, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you, shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.“”The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.“”Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth.“”…all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel".
“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren.”
“Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. … He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows… he carried our sorrows; he was wounded for our transgressions; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.”
“When he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; … through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”
“They shall look on me, whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a first-born… On that day there shall be open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.”
“You will again show mercy to Zion; now is the time for pity; the appointed time has come.”
“Kings on earth rise up and princes plot together against the Lord and his anointed.”
“Lying witnesses have risen against me.”
“I will live for the Lord; my descendants will serve you. The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.”
“The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; but they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality.”
They are at the crossroads. The village of Emmaus, Cleopha’s house are not far away
- Crossroads near Emmaus, old map
The village of Emmaus, Cleopha’s house are not far away.
Will the stranger, who came so near to their hearts, leave them now?
“Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.”
While he was with them at table…
- Rembrandt : Emmaus meal
And since then the Church keeps claiming:
“He was known to us in the breaking of the bread.”
The site of Emmaus-Nicopolis nowadays (pictures)