Easter -”Things” and their Catholic Church Meaning
Another “I AM a Catholic” Lesson

by Pat Miron

1. Ash Wednesday & Lent
2. The Four Last things
3. The meaning and Religious Significance of “Easter-Time”

Have you ever considered why we Catholics have a pre-Easter period that we call “Lent” [Could also be called: ”On the road to Calvary”] while many other [of the thousands] of Christian faiths do not? Many competing faiths hold this as a “nice” but totally unnecessary Catholic practice. … After-All “don’t we KNOW that “Christ did it all” so there is just no need for a period of penance and reflection on our lives; especially one that calls for; even mandates a level of “personal sacrifice?”

The reason for this disparity is that many [speaking again of non-Catholic Christian faiths] hold too some version of Cf. … “Christ did it all so we don’t have too” philosophy, either not knowing or not recognizing that their man-made-faith was designed to be both simpler and easier to faithfully practice than Catholicism could rightly ever be. I don’t wish to digress here, but this Protestant position is solidly NOT a biblical teaching; even though many of the churches holding to this errant line of man-made- religion, yet lacking Godly inspiration, have chosen to call themselves “Bible Churches.”

Please know that in stating this position I mean no lack of Christian charity. I’m merely pointing out a significant difference in our Faith beliefs and Practice, and explaining briefly why it exist. Nor am I making fun of these differing belief systems. But they do exist [beginning in the 17th. Century] and we ought to try to understand why they do exist.

“Ash Wednesday” is the introduction to three important things. 1. Our looming death; & 2. What the Church refers to as “The Last Four Things.” Death, Immediate Judgment, Heaven or Hell [our choice not God’s.] And 3. It is a time for careful refection on Christ road to Calvary and what our response to this Gift, ought to be; and in reality, needs to be. In preparation for the Holiest and most Important Religious day of the year. Namely Easter, we once again prepare our minds, hearts and Souls, to greet Christ in our midst, now in His Risen & Glorified Body that we too seek to someday have.

Genesis 3:19 “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return”

1Cor.15: 47-49 “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall [Highly Conditionally] also bear the image of the man of heaven”

Even atheist and agnostics understand that when “man” dies his body returns to “dust.” Many don’t understand why, beyond the natural physics of the process. Secular science affirms the process and the results, as doe’s cremation. This begs the question: “Is that ALL there is?” NO!
At-least “No” for all Christians that do have eyes that “can see” … Ezek. 12:2, and ears that can and DO “hear.” … Mark 4:9.

The History of Ash Wednesday dates In Sacred Tradition from the very early Church. Going back at least a thousand years or more.

“”Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

“Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental [something that is blessed and able to lead one to a closer relationship with Christ such as Holy Water or our Rosaries] by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.

The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins — just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days’ penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion. In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession” END QUOTE

Ash Wednesday
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, is the first day of Lent in Western Christianity. It occurs 46 days (40 weekdays plus 6 Sundays) before Easter and can fall as early as 4 February or as late as 10 March. Ash Wednesday is observed by many Western Christians, including Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians.

According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. Every Sunday was seen as a commemoration of the Sunday of Christ’s resurrection and so as a feast day on which fasting was inappropriate. Accordingly, Christians fasted from Monday to Saturday (6 days) during 6 weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (4 days) in the preceding week, thus making up the number of 40 days.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

In the 1969 revision of the Roman Rite, an alternative formula was introduced and given first place:

Repent, and believe in the Gospel. (Mark 1:15).

The old formula, based on the words spoken to Adam and Eve after their sin, reminds worshippers of their sinfulness and mortality and thus, implicitly, of their need to repent in time. The newer formula makes explicit what was only implicit in the old.” END QUOTE

The History of using ASHES on Ash Wednesday …

http://www.popnj.org/excerpts/tr_25.htm

With whom did the custom of using Ashes during mourning or repentance begin?

There is a tendency to associate the use of ashes as a symbol of repentance only with today’s Catholic church. But in fact, the use of ashes (along with sackcloth) to indicate mourning, deep repentance or humility — goes back over three thousand years and involved many cultures. As early as 800 BC, Homer wrote about it in The Iliad, and records show that it was practiced by Greeks, by Hebrews and by many other cultures of the western Mediterranean.

Ashes were regarded as a symbol of personal remorse and sadness. Often an uncomfortable “sackcloth” garment made of coarse black goat’s hair, was worn as well.

There are many Old Testament references to the practice. Here are a few:

• Job 42:6 “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job (whose story was written between seventh and fifth centuries B.C.) repented in sackcloth and ashes while prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem.
• Dan 9:3 (c. 550 B.C.) “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.”
• Jonah 3:5-6 In the fifth century B.C., after Jonah’s preaching of conversion and repentance, the town of Nineveh proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, and the king covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the ashes.
• Esther 4:1 “When Mordecai perceived all that was done [the decree of King Xerxes, 485-464 B.C., of Persia to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire], Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry.”

The very early Christian church encouraged the use of sackcloth and ashes for the same symbolic reasons. Tertullian (c. 160-220 AD) wrote that the penitent must “live without joy in the roughness of sackcloth and the squalor of ashes.” Eusebius (260-340 AD), the famous early church historian, recounted in his “The History of the church” how an apostate named Natalis came to Pope Zephyrinus clothed in sackcloth and ashes begging forgiveness. Also during this time, for those who were required to do public penance, the priest sprinkled ashes on the head of the person leaving confession.

How did Lent, as a season of the church, begin?

Lent was first begun as a time of preparation for the joy of Easter. At first only catechumens and their sponsors fasted for a few days prior to Easter in final preparation for baptism. But over time the duration of preparation varied. For example in Rome, Easter was preceded by a full week of fasting and prayer. By the end of the fourth century the symbolism of a forty day penitential period, paralleling Christ’s forty days in the desert, captivated the imagination and a longer Lenten Season appeared. Forty days were chosen as a memorial of the forty days Jesus fasted in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-4), which in turn recalled the forty years Israel wandered in the desert (Num 32:13) … END QUOTE

The significance of Ashes is a visible reminder of both our Creation by God, who brought forth man out of the dust of the earth, and our looming death where we return again “to dust”, and our Hope, filled with Faith and Love that we too may merit the eternal rewards for which we were and are created. … In order to do this we must Know, Love, serve and Obey the Mandates, Precepts, Commandments and Commands of Jesus Christ, taught to us fully and perfectly by His Catholic Church. The application of The Cross made in ashes on our foreheads is way to remind us; to make us cognizant of Christ Road to Calvary, by the little sacrifices and increased prayers and Spiritual works of mercy as a reminder that all that we do has a connection, and imposes a moral obligation to in a sense; join Christ “ON Calvary.” We are asked to contribute to our own sanctification, our own personal piety and holy practices, some increased level of personal-sacrifice which aims to keep us connected to the forty days of Lent as a path to our own Spiritual Enrichment. One step closer to our goal of Eternal Union with Jesus in Heaven.

1Tim.2: 4 “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”

John.3: 1 “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him”

Matt.10: 22 “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved”

It is precisely this last teaching that gives Easter Tide its meaning, merit and value to Souls wise enough to advantage this time of Lenten penance and preparation. To take advantage of the Sacraments Christ Himself instituted to give us an Graced-advantage never before granted to our forefathers. Christian Baptism, Sacramental known forgiveness of our sins, through the Sacrament of Confession; Sacramental Confirmation where we are marked Indelibly as “soldiers” for Christ [Now a member of His “Church Militant”] in and through the Only Church He Jesus Founded, desired, guides, guards and protects. [Mt. 16:15-19; Mt. 28:16-20 & John 17:11-26] And the very Gift of HIMSELF to us in Catholic Holy Communion. Each of these gifts which only the Catholic Church has both validly and licitly, with the potential to maximize the Graces they make available to us when rightly administered and received.

Jesus Rose from the Dead to demonstrate that this is what we too are being called to, and can merit IF we are willing to forsake the world and allow and permit Christ to be “KING of our lives.”
To assume that Christ became Incarnate man, Suffered, Died, was buried BUT Rose again on the Third day in GLORY, but expects nothing more from us than a simple acknowledgment that HE IS OUR GOD, is blatantly foolhardy, not biblical and puts many Souls at risk.

Take Up your Cross and Follow Me

Phil.2: 8 “And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross Luke.9 :23 And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Mark.8: 34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Luke.9: 23 And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke.14: 7 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Matt.5: 19 “Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “ Matt.19: 17 “And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

Sin is glorified, denied, misunderstood, rejected, and interpreted “favorably”; but all these attempts at denial cannot hide their abhorrence to Jesus Christ, whom we offend, at times even gravely, by our life choices. Lent, leading into and up to Easter Day invites us to carry OUR crosses daily, without complaint, and offer up our sacrifices back to Christ and BEG forgiveness for all the times we have allowed our prideful choices to take precedence over our God, our Creator and the One who WILL [Soon?] pass Judgment on our lives.

Mark.1: 15 “and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” … And despite the many screaming to the effect that truth is not singular; claiming that my truth is as important [and as valid] as is yours; I am reminded of the words of Pope Benedict at the time of his acceptance as the Successor of Peter: ”THERE CANNOT BE YOUR TRUTH AND MY TRUTH OR THERE WOULD BE NO TRUTH.”… To which I add AMEN!

To assume that all of are not in urgent need of this time of recommitment, or for some a first time commitment is to pass up an opportunity to return to Christ just a small portion of what He has given to us. HOW DARE WE NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT.

1John.1 Verses 8 to 10 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

1John.5 Verses 16 to 17 “If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.

John.20 Verses 20 to 23” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”

Lenten Fast Rules:

What is the Church’s official position concerning penance and abstinence from meat during Lent?

In 1966 Pope Paul VI reorganized the Church’s practice of public penance in his “Apostolic Constitution on Penance” (Poenitemini). The 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law incorporated the changes made by Pope Paul. Not long after that, the U.S. bishops applied the canonical requirements to the practice of public penance in our country.

To sum up those requirements, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In addition, all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent.

Fasting as explained by the U.S. bishops means partaking of only one full meal. Some food (not equaling another full meal) is permitted at breakfast and around midday or in the evening—depending on when a person chooses to eat the main or full meal.

Abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, milk products or condiments made of animal fat.

Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are not forbidden. So it is permissible to use margarine and lard. Even bacon drippings which contain little bits of meat may be poured over lettuce as seasoning.

Each year in publishing the Lenten penance requirements, the U.S. bishops quote the teaching of the Holy Father concerning the seriousness of observing these days of penance. The obligation to do penance is a serious one; the obligation to observe, as a whole or “substantially,” the days of penance is also serious.

But no one should be scrupulous in this regard; failure to observe individual days of penance is not considered serious. Moral theologians remind us that some people are excused from fasting and/or abstinence because of sickness or other reasons.

In his “Apostolic Constitution on Penance,” Pope Paul VI did more than simply reorganize Church law concerning fast and abstinence. He reminded us of the divine law that each of us in our own way do penance. We must all turn from sin and make reparation to God for our sins. We must forgive and show love for one another just as we ask for God’s love and forgiveness.

The Code of Canon Law and our bishops remind us of other works and means of doing penance: prayer, acts of self-denial, almsgiving and works of personal charity. Attending Mass daily or several times a week, praying the rosary, making the way of the cross, attending the parish evening prayer service, teaching the illiterate to read, reading to the blind, helping at a soup kitchen, visiting the sick and shut-ins and giving an overworked mother a break by baby-sitting—all of these can be even more meaningful and demanding than simply abstaining from meat on Friday.

from Ask A Franciscan, St.Anthony Messenger magazine

If Suffering was necessary for Christ, how friends can it not ALSO be good; even necessary for us? Do NOT buy into the recent man-made religions skewed and favorable to THEM, not to God and certainly not to our spiritual wellbeing philosophy that God Did it ALL. God COULD have but choose NOT to which is why we hold our Martyrs in such high esteem.

Never has a Soul made it to Sainthood without suffering. STRIVE to be a saint!

Mark 1: 15-18
[15] and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” [16] And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. [17] And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” [18] And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” To “believe in Christ Gospel” we must 1. Listen to what His Church [singular] Teaches and 2. And then OBEY it.

Don’t presume that Christ is going to give you tomorrow. The “Four Last things: Death, Judgment, Hell or Heaven are much closer than we would like to think they are.

Pray much dear friends,
Patrick

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