With the onset of Lent this coming Ash Wednesday, we would do well to use this weekend to contemplate the sacrifices and mortifications we will undertake to make reparation for our personal and communal sins. At the beginning of Advent 2013, I pointed out the outstanding example of the Orthodox Christians and their penances, sacrifices, and mortifications for both Advent, (the lesser Lent); and Lent proper, (the greater Lent), which for good order I repeat here:
During Lent, Advent (period leading up to the Nativity), and other fast periods the Orthodox Christian, i.e. the Russian, Greek and other Eastern Churches fast from:
2. Eggs & dairy,
3. Fish with backbones (other seafood – shellfish – allowed),
4. Wine & olive oil,
Fish, wine, & olive oil are permitted on celebration days within the fast period; wine & olive oil are always permitted on Saturdays & Sundays.
Clearly we, as Catholics, should easily emulate them in our Lenten preparations in anticipation of the triumph of Easter.
A good starting point to get into the spirit of mortification would be to view Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, as a family, (where age appropriate, of course). This is guaranteed to provoke a genuine spirit of repentance and sorry for sin. To further evoke a proper outlook of remorse, repentance, and reparation, not only for this time of Lent but also for the times in which we are living I reprise below my CRS article from August, 2012.
The Scourging: A Contemplation of a Contemporary Catholic
The most significant image of Our Lord, Jesus Christ’s horrific sufferings and death is that of the Crucifixion, as this was the ultimate expiation sacrifice which redeemed mankind from the sins of Adam in which all participate and are wounded. Certainly, for the contemporary Christian the one most vivid and lasting images planted in the mind’s eye of the suffering of Christ for our sins is by far is the image of the Scourging at the Pillar as depicted in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Traditional teachings indicate that the Scourging at the Pillar was particularly for the expiations of the sins of impurity, or sins of the flesh as Our Lady of Fatima referred to them. Gibson’s depiction of the scourging of the barbed flails of the whip tearing the flesh of the Lamb of God brought home the actual suffering of Our Lord, Jesus Christ in living color, so to speak. In the silenced theater where I sat there was a collective audible wailing and sobbing elicited from the completely absorbed audience. In a manner of speaking Gibson succeeded to enter, not just individuals, but entire groups of people into contemplation of the Suffering of Our Divine Savior; and though the experience did not have the long lasting effect of reformation of our sinful lives it certainly did have our attention and possibly our remorse for a limited time, which is quite an accomplishment in our fast-paced modern world.
In contemplating that scene many of us, like the Pharisee of old, judge the character of those who actually witnessed scourging at the time. Certainly we’ve all thought: Had I been on the scene I would have stopped this. I’d have rushed forward to stay the executioners hand and take away the flails. Clearly, I love Our Lord, Jesus Christ more than those who witnessed that awful event. Undoubtedly this is not a Publican attitude, because were we there the outcome would have been no different.
It must be remembered that the humanity of Jesus Christ was perfection in every way. His senses were far more perceptive and heightened than any human that has ever lived, the result of which is that He suffered what a physician would term “exquisite pain” for each of those tearing blows with the scourge. That said, we can have more of an effect now than those who lived at the time and bore sad witness to that horrendous and bloody courtyard sight, in comforting Him by uniting our own crosses and sacrifices to that of The Savior; but also, by firmly resolving to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Effectively each sin we avoid is infinitesimally lessening the suffering of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. In the case of The Scourging at the Pillar each sin of the flesh, by which souls fall into Hell like snowflakes in a blizzard, will in some supernatural and mystical way lessen His Suffering.
That, however, is not the only way we can affect His suffering. To get back to my Pharisaical example above, we can, unlike those who witnessed the scourging, rush the executioner and attempt to stay his hand. This is accomplished because in our day, the Mystical Body of Christ, that is, the Church is also suffering horrific acts of torture and mayhem from both within and without. We, as soldiers of Christ, must rush these persecutors of the Church and wrest the scourges from their awful hands. We must speak AND act decisively in defense or Christ and His Church by whatever means we have at our disposal. If we fail to do this we are, indeed, no better than those who impotently stood by and watch Our Lord and Savior flogged for our offenses. Now is the time for Catholic Action! We are obliged to do no less. If we see a wrong perpetrated in the name of the Catholic Faith we, individually and collectively, must act to stay the hand that flogs Christ once again. Should we fail in this we will face an Awful Judge when we stand before the Throne of God to give account for our lives as alleged faithful Catholics; and that judgment will be far harsher than the judgment we hurl on the character of those who stood by and watched Christ suffering at the time. By our Baptism and Confirmation we can do no less.
Continue the individual and collective Rosaries for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary it is our only recourse.
Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.