Monday 6 April 2020

A Blessed Lent Meditations on the Readings and Prayers of the Mass - Fr Philip G. Bochanski CO

A Blessed Lent:
Meditations on the Readings and Prayers of the Mass
Philip G. Bochanski CO
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860828997
eISBN 9781784692131
CTS Booklet D768

Over the last few years I have read over 100 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. This year as Lent approached, I searched for resources from CTS for Lend and Eastertide. I picked up several that were available as eBooks. And already had one that was out of print as a physical book. I have found that CTS has amazing resources, for the whole church year, hundreds of biographies, and many amazing series and books. Of the three resources I picked up new this Lent this is the only one that is set up as a daily devotional. It has a specific section for each day of Lent.

I thoroughly enjoyed this volume. And have already picked up the only other book I have found by Fr Philip G. Bochanski CO. This book was so engaging I finished it in a few days. I could not stop, and am no going back and rereading it in the intended daily sections.

This book was originally published in 2014 and the eBook was released in 2018. The description of the volume is:

“Lent is a time of spiritual combat for the Christian, to whom the Church reaches out with support and encouragement, feeding her children with the Eucharist, Word and Prayer. Drawing on the liturgy of each day and the precious gift of the Prayers over the People, now restored to the Missal, Fr Bochanski leads us into a deeper meditation on the meaning of our Lenten Easter journey.”

And the chapters are:

Ash Wednesday
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Friday after Ash Wednesday
Saturday after Ash Wednesday
First Sunday of Lent
Second Sunday of Lent
Third Sunday of Lent
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Monday of Holy Week
Tuesday of Holy Week
Wednesday of Holy Week
Holy Thursday of the Lord’s Supper
Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord
Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

And as previously stated there are readings for each day of each of the weeks of Lent. We are told in the introduction:

“The third edition of the Roman Missal contains a particular gift to the Church for the season of Lent, the six weeks between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday that are set aside for penance in preparation for Easter. Following an ancient liturgical tradition, the Missal provides a solemn prayer of blessing, called the Prayer over the People, for every day in Lent.

Similar prayers for the end of Holy Mass are found in the earliest centuries of the Church, in the ancient liturgies of Christians in Syria and Egypt as well as in Rome. In fact, many of the Prayers over the People that appear in the present Missal are drawn directly from our oldest Latin liturgical texts, including the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (AD 492-96). Other ancient manuscripts attest to the importance of these solemn blessings, especially in Masses celebrated by the Holy Father. Pope Gregory the Great (AD 535-604) decreed that they would be used at each Mass from Ash Wednesday to Wednesday of Holy Week, a practice that continued in force until the revision of the Missal in 1969. The restoration of these prayers to the Missal - mandatory for the Sundays of Lent, and optional for weekdays - provides an opportunity to reflect on the nature of Lent, and on the way the Church responds to it.”

And the reflections in this volume are based on the readings, and prayers for each of the days in Lent. This is the first Lenten devotional that I have encountered that focuses at least in part on the prayers of the mass. A sample day from this volume is:

Saturday of the First Week of Lent

May the blessing for which they have longed
strengthen your faithful, O God,
so that, never straying from your will,
they may always rejoice in your benefits.
Through Christ our Lord.

Dt 26:16-19; Ps 119; Mt 4:43-48

“Never straying from God’s will”? Really? Never?
As we take stock of the first ten days of Lent, and our progress so far, these words from today’s Prayer over the People might seem daunting, an admirable but ultimately unattainable goal. Like the first line in today’s psalm: “They are happy whose life is blameless.” Or, most intimidating, the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

It seems we have two choices here of how to interpret the Scriptures. On the one hand, we can hear the words just quoted as something to keep in mind, maybe something to aspire towards, while deciding that the Lord does not desire to be taken literally. Nobody’s perfect, after all - that much seems an axiom of human nature. Surely the Lord wants us to try, even to try really hard, to try our best, but he can’t seriously expect perfection, can he?

The other option is to take God at his word - not to shirk the reality that he means what he says, and that what he says is, “Be perfect.” If God says it, then it can’t be wrong or illogical. More than that: if God says it, then it must be something for our good and for our happiness. He does not set us up to fail.

So how do we reconcile what we have learnt about God’s will with what we know about our human condition? Look again at the Prayer over the People: May your blessing … strengthen your faithful, it says, so that, never straying from your will, they may always rejoice. The blessing comes first - grace allows us and enables us to reach perfection. Likewise, in the First Reading, Moses reminds the people that they have promised to keep all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. But the Lord has made a promise, too: to be true to his special love for them and to walk with them.

We do not do good things to make God love us. Rather, the fact of God’s love for us makes us do good things. Perfection, at its root, means doing the whole thing, walking the whole way. So, we walk with the Lord and find the grace to do good. As we walk with him moment by moment, we have a perfect day. As we walk with him day by day, we make a perfect Lent. As we walk with him month by month, we have a perfect year. We can be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect, by receiving his love and doing everything in cooperation with him.”

And on the Sunday’s he lists the readings for each year of the cycle. This is a wonderful volume. Of the new resources for lent that I picked up from CTS this year it is my favorite. It is an excellent volume and I highly recommend it.

A great read!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Link to other Lent Resources.

Books by Philip G. Bochanski:
A Blessed Lent
Novena to the Holy Spirit

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