The penitential season of Lent offers a perfect opportunity to remedy in our souls what has been damaged in the past.
We offer this excerpt from The Liturgical Year of Dom Prosper Gueranger concerning the Season of Lent. Featured at the end of this extract are some recommended links related to Lent.
The Holy Season of Lent
The holy Church gave us, as the subject of our meditation for the first Sunday of Lent, the Temptation which our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to suffer in the Desert. Her object was to enlighten us with regard to our own temptations, and teach us how to conquer them.
Today [Third Sunday of Lent], she wishes to complete her instruction on the power and stratagems of our invisible enemies; and for this she reads to us a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke.
During Lent, the Christian ought to repair the past, and provide for the future; but he can neither understand how it was he fell, nor defend himself against a relapse, unless he have correct ideas as to the nature of the dangers which have hitherto proved fatal, and are again threatening him. Hence, the ancient liturgists would have us consider it as a proof of the maternal watchfulness of the Church, that she should have again proposed such a subject to us. As we shall find, it is the basis of all today’s instructions.
But if there be one Season of the Year more than another in which the Faithful ought to reflect upon what is taught us both by faith and experience, as to the existence and workings of the wicked spirits,—it is undoubtedly this of Lent, when it is our duty to consider what have been the causes of our last sins, what are the spiritual dangers we have to fear for the future, and what means we should have recourse to for preventing a relapse.
Let us, then, hearken to the Holy Gospel. Firstly, we are told, that the devil had possessed a man, and that the effect produced by this possession was dumbness. Our Savior casts out the devil, and, immediately, the dumb man spoke. So that, the being possessed by the devil is not only a fact which testifies to God’s impenetrable justice; it is one which may produce physical effects upon them that are thus tried or punished. The casting out the devil restores the use of speech to him that had been possessed. We say nothing about the obstinate malice of Jesus’ enemies, who would have it, that his power over the devils, came from his being in league with the prince of devils: all we would now do is, to show that the wicked spirits are sometimes permitted to have power over the body…
Ever since the promulgation of the Gospel, the power of Satan over the human body has been restricted by the virtue of the Cross, at least in Christian countries; but this power resumes its sway as often as faith and the practice of Christian piety lose their influence...
The Third Sunday of Lent is called Oculi, from the first word of the Introit. In the primitive Church, it was called Scrutiny-Sunday, because it was on this day that they began to examine the Catechumens, who were to he admitted to Baptism on Easter night. All the Faithful were invited to assemble in the Church, in order that they might bear testimony to the good life and morals of the candidates. At Rome, these examinations, which where called the Scrutinies, were made on seven different occasions, on account of the great number of the aspirants to Baptism; but the principal Scrutiny was that held on the Wednesday of the Fourth Week We will speak of it later on.
The Roman Sacramentary of St. Gelasius gives us the form, in which the Faithful were convoked to these assemblies. It is as follows.
Dearly beloved Brethren: you know that the day of Scrutiny, when our elect are to receive the holy instruction, is at hand. We invite you, therefore, to be zealous and assemble on N., (here, the day was mentioned) at the hour of Sext [the sixth hour of the day]; that so we may be able, by the divine aid, to achieve without error, the heavenly mystery, whereby is opened the gate of the kingdom of heaven, and the devil is excluded with all his pomps."
The invitation was repeated, if needed, on each of the following Sundays. The Scrutiny of this Sunday ended in the admission of a certain number of candidates: their names were written down, and put on the Diptychs of the Altar, that they might be mentioned in the Canon of the Mass. The same also was done with the names of their Sponsors.
The Station was, and still is, in the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls. The name of this, the most celebrated of the Martyrs of Rome, would remind the catechumens, that the Faith they were about to profess, would require them to be ready for many sacrifices.