I have been on a bit of a hobby horse about pre-Lent. And yes, I am still on it.
In reading over some older devotional materials (more on that in the next post) and thinking about this Sunday’s Mass readings, the problem (one of them) clicked into place in a very simple way.
Lent begins next Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. Which means tomorrow is the last Sunday before Lent begins. What are the Mass readings?
They are the readings of the 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Gospel:: Matthew 6, continuing our reading of the Sermon on the Mount which has been going on for a couple of weeks.
(Remember there were only two readings)
Corinthians 13:1-13 – ….but do not have love…
Gospel: Luke 18:31-43
At that time Jesus took unto Him the twelve and said to them: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things shall be accomplished which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man. For He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and scourged and spit upon: and after they have scourged Him, they will put Him to death, and the third day He shall rise again.
And they understood none of these things, and this word was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said.
Now it came to pass, when He drew nigh to Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the wayside, begging. And when he heard the multitude passing by, he asked what this meant. And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying: Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. And they that went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace. But he cried out much more: Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus standing, commanded him to be brought unto Him. And when he was come near, He asked him, saying: What wilt thou that I do to thee? But he said: Lord, that I may see. And Jesus said to him: Receive thy sight, thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he saw and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
So the entire Catholic world would hear these Scriptures , not just whatever happens to be the readings of that last Sunday of Ordinary Time, but these Scriptures (and Propers and prayers) specifically and organically evolved with the coming of Lent in view.
(Catholics who participate in the Extraordinary Form or the Anglican Ordinariate still experience this form of pre-Lent, and of course Eastern Rite Catholics have their own form as well, with set readings that don’t change from year to year.)
In that older post I highlight the work of scholar Dr. Lauren Pristas, who wrote an essay detailing the thought and politics that went into the elimination of pre-Lent in the Latin Rite. As I say there, the conclusion is essentially that it was too hard for us poor lay folk to keep it all straight and stay focused.
Unintended consequences, anyone? Not to speak of weirdly wrong thinking. Pistas entitled her essay “Parachuting into Lent” and that is exactly the effect, isn’t it?
The best-intentioned post-Conciliar reformers (in contrast to those who simply didn’t believe any of the stuff anymore) seemed to me to be operating from the assumption that the Church’s life and practice as it had developed over time functioned as an obstacle to deeply authentic faith, and that what was needed was a loosening of all this so that Catholics would develop a more adult faith, rooted in free response rather than adherence to structures.
Well, you know how it is. You know how it is when, on one day out of a million you have a blank slate in front of you? No rigid walls hemming you in? No kids to pick up, you don’t have to work, no one’s throwing obligations and tasks at you? And you think, Wow…a whole day free. I’m going to get so much done!
And then it’s the end of the day, and you realize that maybe what you had thought were restrictions were really guides and maybe not so bad because you look back on your Day Without Walls and you wonder…wait, how many cat videos did I watch today? Do I even want to know?
Where’s my parachute?