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The Time to be Fervent

As I write this article, we still find ourselves in the season of Pre-Lent, but the day of Ash Wednesday is not that far off, February 26 this year.  During this approaching season of Lent we are called to incorporate within our lives the Lenten disciplines of Prayer, Fasting and Giving.  But in saying that there is one thing that has always been a bit of a concern here. 

Aren’t we always supposed to be Praying, Fasting and Giving?  Aren’t we supposed to go to Church each Sunday to join in the communal prayer of the entire Church in worshipping Almighty God and receiving the Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ?  Aren’t we supposed to be saying our daily prayers, every day, asking God to forgive our sins and praying for those around us?  Aren’t we supposed to be fasting, at lease in regards to all of the sinful and gluttonous areas of the world?  Aren’t we supposed to be giving, whether in time, treasure or talent, to the support of our local parishes and to the good work that they and the entire Polish National Catholic Church does?  So what exactly are we speaking about when we say that Lent is the time to Pray, to Fast and to Give?

It is during this season of Lent that we are called to make some real introspection into how we are living our daily life and what these practices really mean for us.  One of the difficult problems that we face as human beings is that we fall into routine.  We do things without giving much thought to them at all, just continuing on in the same way we always have.  Now while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if these practices are holy and wholesome, it does not allow us to give some thought to our practices and make changes or additions if needed.  It is the season of Lent that allows us to do this. 

The season is one of increase and maybe also a little bit of decrease.  Individually we are called to decrease the attention that we pay to our own selfish desires.  We are called to decrease our own self-centeredness.  But this decrease allows us to focus on increase in other areas.

We are called to increase our times of prayer.  During Lent the Church helps us in this regard by offering extra devotions, such as Penitential Services, Stations of the Cross and Bitter Lamentations.  But this is really only a start.  During this season of Lent we are called to examine our prayer life as well.  Can we increase our commitment to the liturgical life of the Church?  Do we attend Mass weekly, or only once in a while?  Do we spend time in preparation before receiving the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion or do we rush in at the last moment before Mass begins?  Do we remember to say our daily prayers at home, or do we only turn to God in the moments that we need something?  Lent calls us to ask these questions and many others as we seek to increase our times of prayer.

We are called to increase our fasting.  The P.N.C.C. Prayer Book speaks of fasting and abstinence, but not only in the season of Lent.  As the Prayer Book states we are called to abstain from meat on the Fridays throughout the year in commemoration of the death of our Lord on Good Friday.  Many also abstain from meat on the Wednesdays of Lent as well to increase this fasting practice.  Although all are called to this fast, we also know that those who may have a medical or health condition are excused.  Along with this we are also called to keep the Eucharistic fast before the reception of Holy Communion for two hours.  The Prayer Book states: “Fasting before Communion is not primarily an act of penance, but one of homage to our Lord.” 

Like many others, I have to admit that during certain times of the year I get a little lax with my fasting discipline.  It becomes easy to let things slip a little, especially when someone else may offer us something that does not meet our fasting discipline.  Lent is a call to once again pick up the discipline and hold it more firmly.  It is also a time to examine the concept of fasting a little more deeply.  Part of the discipline of fasting is done in order to put ourselves and our selfish desires lower than our desire to seek and follow God.  It helps us to realize our reliance on the God Who loves us.  In this way we might be called to increase our fasting to something besides food that is drawing us away from God at the moment.  This could be some activity we are placing ahead of our focus on worship and living a good Christian life, or some other object or activity that we prize ahead of Almighty God.

We are also called to increase our giving.  Now giving is listed in the Five Commandments of the Church, just as is the discipline of fasting.  It states that we must “contribute to the support of the Church,” as the last of these commandments.  Likewise the Constitution of the P.N.C.C. states that one of the material duties of Church members is that “every member endeavors to make freewill offerings as the needs of the Church and the Parish require.” (Article III, section 4.B(5))  So therefore giving and support of Christ’s work in the Church is an integral part of what it means to be a Catholic Christian.  But Lent calls us to something more.  This could certainly be increased giving.  Maybe there are some special aspects of the Church’s mission that you feel called to support.  Maybe you can increase your giving to your Parish as a way to increase your dedication to the work of the Parish in your local community.  Maybe you might choose to help fund an ongoing work of the Church like the Youth Convocation or the Clergy Pension Fund.  There are very many ways in which you can increase your discipline of giving. 

This time of increase is also a call to be more intentional in your giving as well.  After speaking with a large number of people, I have often found that giving to the Church, while certainly a part of most of our lives, is not very intentional.  On a Sunday morning, or Saturday night, we see what might be left in our wallet and then give some of it to Christ’s work within our parish.  During the Lenten season we are called to examine this giving.  We are called to consider our giving first and make it a priority.  Let the amount that we give to the work of the Church be given as a first fruit of our labor, and not just an afterthought.

As I said above this season of Lent is called to be a time of increase.  And most importantly is called to be a season of increased fervor.  As Catholic Christians, the practice of Prayer and Fasting and Giving must certainly be a part, not only of our Lenten journey, but of our entire life.  But during this Lenten season let us each take a little time, not only to continue these practices, not only to increase them in time and effort, but to do so with a little more fervor.

It is this zeal as Christians that we are called to.  We are called to serve our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Church in an ever stronger and more diligent way.  If we love God, and His Son our Lord, Jesus Christ, we then will love His continuation in the world today through His body, the Church.  We will seek to more fully live the spiritual disciplines of the Church and through them more closely follow our Lord.  As St. Paul says to the Corinthians: “Since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12)  Let Lent be a time to increase our spiritual disciplines, and also to strive to excel in them, to be more fervent, that we can continue to build up the Church, the Kingdom of God, among us.

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