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Newsletter of St. John the Apostle Parish

March 2023

Dear Parish Family and Friends,

As I was reading about Lenten customs, I came across this interesting custom in England which dates back centuries. The Monday before Ash Wednesday was called Collop Monday because it was the last day of eating flesh before the fast. People would cut up their fresh meat into collops or steaks for salting or hanging up until Lent was over; and they had a last meal of eggs and collops or bacon on that day. I thought this was an interesting take on getting ready for the long Lenten fast. Now lets read on and refresh our minds about Lent and the celebration of joy on Easter.

The Lenten season began about the seventh century for those who had committed serious sins and were prepared to submit to public penance.  They presented themselves at the beginning of Lent to the Bishop in his church, clothed in sackcloth and with bare feet, where they were joined with him and the rest of the clergy in repeating the seven penitential psalms. Then they were sent into a monastery for their penitential exercise and remained there until shortly before Easter. 

This practice was gradually replaced by the whole Church putting itself to penance during Lent and this was symbolized by the ceremonial use of ashes with a solemn penitential service.  The Church does not rush to the celebration of Christ’s passion. Instead, it makes use of the entire Lenten season. The ashes are an austere and eloquent symbol of these forty days. They reveal our will to be converted and to do penance when faced with the grace of forgiveness won and offered by Jesus, who was crucified. The ashes are placed on our foreheads with the words “Remember O man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” 

It is this dust that Jesus will raise us, making us participants in his glory, if we allow our lives to be renewed through his mercy. With the ending of the penitential days of Lent we enter the Paschal Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. Then Easter! This is a time of joy, which we spend continuously remembering the resurrection of the Lord, which encompasses all the events of salvation history. 

For those who have faith, Christ gives the grace of Life, which destroys death from sin and is a pledge of resurrection. The miracle of the raising of Lazarus is a prelude to this victory. Jesus the source of the Spirit and of Light, is also the Fount of Life, “I Am the resurrection and the life,” he says; “whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live” (John 11:25)

One thing we need to remember is that without the Cross there can be no Crown. Without His death there can be no victory over death. 

Have a Holy Lent, 

In Christ,

Father Wirth, Rector 

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