29 March 2009

Last Sunday of Lent

Eastern Catholics remember St. Mary of Egypt on the fifth Sunday of Lent:

One of the most striking examples of penance ever witnessed, is this day proposed for our consideration: Mary, the Sinner and Penitent of Egypt, comes to animate us to persevere in our Lenten exercises; Like Magdalene and Margaret of Cortona, she had sinned grievously; like them, she repented, atoned for her guilt, and is now the associate of Angels.

Let us adore the omnipotence of our God, who thus changed a vessel of dishonour into one of honour; let us lovingly contemplate the riches of his mercy, and hope for our own participation in them. At the same time, let us remember, that pardon is not granted, save where there is repentance; and that repentance is not genuine, unless it produce an abiding spirit and deeds of penance.

Mary of Egypt had the misfortune to lead a life of sin for seventeen years; but her penance lasted forty: and what kind of penance must not hers have been, living alone in a desert, under a scorching sun, without the slightest human consolation, and amidst every sort of privation!

The pledge of pardon--the receiving Holy Communion--which we received so soon after our sins, was not granted to Mary, till she had done penance for nearly half a century. Yes, that pledge of Jesus' forgiveness, which he has given us in the Sacrament of his Love, and which was communicated to us so promptly, was withheld from this admirable Penitent, so that her second time for receiving it was at the moment when death was on the point of separating her soul from her body which was worn out by austerities !

Let us humble ourselves at such a comparison; let us think with fear on this great truth--that God's justice will require an exact account of all the graces he has heaped upon us; and with this thought, let us rouse ourselves to a determination to merit, by the sincerity of our repentance, a place near the humble Penitent of the desert.

The Liturgical Year: Lent (1870) by Dom Prosper Gueranger

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