Fixing Our Attention on the Paschal Mystery During Lent

In the office of Readings for Ash Wednesday, St. Clement I, the bishop of Rome in the late first century, exhorts the Christian people to fix our gaze on the Paschal Mystery in the following manner:

“Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world."

Christian communities throughout the world at the beginning of the Lenten season are faced with the Paschal Mystery as they contemplate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. During this treasured time of intense prayer, fasting, and giving alms, the Church turns her attention to the finality of life on earth and the need for repentance for all peoples. At the beginning of Lent, millions of Christians are met with the words of Christ "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand'' (cf. Matt 3:2). Christians are filled with filial piety and exhibit this strong desire to share in the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross by having ashes placed on the crown of their head or in the form of a cross on their forehead. On this day, Ash Wednesday, the Church reminds the people of God that "we are but ashes and shall return to dust."

Sin and death have prevailed over humanity for millennia. But, through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, the mark of sin and death lost its hold on humanity. The gift of forgiveness of sins and newness of life became a reality in light of the Resurrection. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us in his treatment on the fittingness of Christ’s death in the Tertia Pars of his Summa Theologiae, that Christ delivered us from the fear of death, gave us the example of dying to sin spiritually, and that “by rising from the dead, and manifesting His power whereby He overthrew death, He [instilled] into us the hope of rising from the dead.” We are made sharers of the divine life thorough baptism and an active participation in the sacramental life of the Church.

St. Clement urges the Christian people in order to conform to the will of God one must “turn to [Christ’s] compassion, reject empty works and quarreling and jealousy…be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride, and foolish anger.” Christ took on the ugliest modes of humanity and gave up his life so that mankind can regain beatific union with God. In order to participate in the communion of the Trinity, a spirit of repentance, self-abnegation, and filial dependence on the mercy, forgiveness, and charity of God is necessary.

Br. José María Barrero, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE