Our Loving Mother, the Church, Teaches Us through Her Liturgy… Or at Least She Used To: A Holy Week Oration and Why We Fast

I have harped about fasting these past six weeks. I am sure it is tiresome to some. But please indulge me one more time. It is Holy Week, after all. Sidenote: this is the week where our fasting should take on extra urgency and our desire to be as generous to God as possible should cause our hearts to burn. Step it up, brethren.

I remember in the days when I foolishly believed I was helping to form young men and women for God by teaching the Catholic faith in “Catholic” schools. Please God, at least some of those I taught actually learned something. Owing to my own theological training which itself sprang from an imbued love of the faith, I would voraciously devour what we now refer to so blandly as “content”. Whereas today I scan through favorited websites and watch hours of YouTube videos (I also read books too), back then I would get a hold of every new encyclical and exhortation. That was when we had a pope to write them.

I remember reading one such document of Benedict XVI (the name of which I cannot recall at the moment) and being struck by two things. The first was a line that said something to the effect of “Our first prayer should always be a plea for a god’s mercy.” I never forgot that. The second was the notion that the faith should be taught from the Mass. In other words, in order to teach the Catholic faith, we need only immerse ourselves in the sacred rites of the Church. You will find all you need to know therein. This seems to me nothing more than a play on “lex orandi, lex credendi “.

Stained glass transom, St. Lucy’s Church, Newark, NJ FYI please pray for Mr. and Mrs. Russo.

So this brings us to the great Lenten fast. As I have mentioned, I have made the effort this year to truly embrace the fast for all that it is worth. Over the past 4-5 years (corresponding to my time “in tradition”) I have come to learn much from the ancient Mass – much that was hidden from me during the previous 40 years in the Novus Ordo. Ask yourself, if the Mass teaches us the faith and I was going every day and didn’t know things I should have known, why is that? We know the answer. The Bugnini rite stripped away the beauty of the fundamentals. Apostolic teaching like fasting got reduced to something akin to a suggestion on a couple of days a year. I am angry when I think about it. Things necessary to the salvation of my soul were kept from me. I’m sure some will argue that one doesn’t, strictly speaking, need to fast to attain heaven like one doesn’t need to pray the rosary. The same people would accuse me of legalism for wanting to adhere to rubrics.

But now I see it. It is clear to me. Fasting is fundamental. Fasting is salutary. Fasting is an imitation of Christ! It takes our wills and curbs our vices to surrender the desires of the appetites to God. It keeps demons at bay (much as the rosary does). It allows us full, conscious, and active participation in our salvation by uniting ourselves with the Crucified Savior!

Today, for the first time in a long time, I was unable to attend the Holy Mass. My daughter had a doctor’s appointment that I had forgotten about and it overlapped with the Mass time. So this evening, in the quiet setting of my front porch, I took out my missal and prayed the prayers of the Mass to myself. I read Mark’s account of the Passion. I read the Offertory prayers. I prayed the Leonine prayers. But I also found another hidden gem.

And here, with just two days until the most austere fast of all (Holy Thursday until the Vigil), the ancient teaching words of our loving Mother the Church hit me like a hammer.

“May our vices be cured, O Almighty God, by Thy holy mysteries, and may we receive everlasting healing. Per Dominum Nostrum Jesum Christum…”

Postcommunion, Tuesday of Holy Week

Fasting is a gift from God as is the free and undeserved grace to fast and He gives it to us to purify us by curbing our vices and heal us forever.

That oration, in the noble simplicity of ancient Roman oratory, is your crib sheet. That is why we fast.

I so love the rites of Holy Week and I desire the more to lay myself at the foot of His Cross and mourn for my sins and for the wasted time. The fasting this year has increased that love. It has indeed strengthened me. It has shielded me. It has, dare I say it, made me more of a man. But thanks be to God for giving me this grace now and May He bless each of you to fast generously during the Triduum!

Our Lady of Revelation, pray for us!

One response to “Our Loving Mother, the Church, Teaches Us through Her Liturgy… Or at Least She Used To: A Holy Week Oration and Why We Fast

  1. Pingback: Canon212 Update: The Slippery Words of Pope Waldo – The Stumbling Block