21 February 2007

Lent, Parochial & Plain.

Fr. Oakes has posted a catena of Lenten-themed excerpts from the sermons of John Henry Newman, with commentary.

Is there any Christian who starts by taking Lent seriously on Ash Wednesday and yet comes to Easter Sunday who does not feel “bloodied by the contest,” caught up in the ganglia of sin coiling about the soul? But for Newman that’s just the point. For it is the struggle itself that teaches us how we stand before God. Reliance on grace is taught in the pedagogy of the struggle, and Lent is that pedagogue:

I am speaking of . . . what every one must know in his own case: how difficult it is to command himself, and do what he wishes to do; how weak the governing principle of his mind is, and how poorly and imperfectly he comes up to his own notions of right and truth; how difficult it is to command his feelings, grief, anger, impatience, joy, fear; how difficult to govern his own tongue, to say just what he would; how difficult to rouse himself to do what he would, at this time or that; how difficult to rise in the morning; how difficult to go about his duties and not be idle; how difficult to eat and drink just what he should, how difficult to regulate his thoughts through the day; how difficult to keep out of his mind what should be kept out of it.
These are difficulties for all Christians, of course, but most especially for those serious about Lent. That was why for Newman Lent ultimately was the season for learning how to rely on the grace of God—and on the hope that is the fruit of that grace. And that, in the last analysis, is all he can really have to say to us infirm sinners: “As men in a battle cannot see how it is going, so Christians have no certain signs of God’s presence in their hearts, and can but look up towards their Lord and Savior, and timidly hope.”



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