On the requisite Dispositions for the Holy Time of Lent
1st Prelude. Represent to yourself Adam at the moment when, after his condemnation, he hears the humiliating words “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
2nd Prelude. Beg of God that He will deign to penetrate you with the feelings the Church desires us to be inspired with today.
POINT I. First disposition requisite: Humility.
CONSIDERATION. “Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Who uttered these bitter words? God Himself, nearly six thousand years ago. To whom did He address them? To Adam, our first parent, as soon as, in punishment for his sin, the sentence of death had been pronounced on him and his posterity: “Because thou hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work,” said the Lord. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return to the earth of which thou wast taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” But why did God add these last words, which do not increase in any way the punishment already given? It was doubtless to subdue and annihilate the pride of Adam, and inspire him with such deep humility as would dispose his heart to salutary penance. Thus we see that Adam, who had begun to excuse himself, answered not, but accepted the penance imposed, and persevered in it, humble, penitent, and resigned for the long space of nine hundred years. God was pleased with this penance, and our first parent was saved by it through the merits of the future Redeemer.
APPLICATION. We have sinned in Adam, we have sinned ourselves, we are very guilty, we have great need of doing penance, of imploring pardon; God is ready to give it to us. But we have seen that the first feeling He seeks in the heart of a sinner is humility, and a conviction of his own unworthiness. The first disposition then into which we ought to try to enter and in which to persevere during Lent — that time of universal penance — is a profound humility, springing from the knowledge of our nothingness and our sins. It is this which should form the principal merit of our works of penance.
Here make AFFECTIONS and RESOLUTIONS.
POINT II. Second disposition requisite: Compunction.
CONSIDERATION. “Remember, O man, that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Who is it that utters again, every year on this day, the same words that God pronounced in the terrestrial paradise. Our holy Mother Church by the mouth of her ministers. And to whom does She address them? To each of us, to all the faithful who assemble in the house of God. And at what moment? At the same moment when She places ashes on our foreheads — the emblem of death and penance. It is as if She said “O man, be thou who thou mayest, remember thou must die and become like unto this dust, because of sin; remember, that if thou dost not penance for thy sins, thou wilt only rise again from the dust of the tomb to pass in body and soul into a place of eternal torments.”
APPLICATION. The Church obliges us to listen to those grave and terrific truths only to inspire us, from the first day of Lent, with holy and deep compunction. Compunction of heart is the second essential disposition for whomever desires to attain one of the principal ends of Lent — salutary penance. If our works of mortification and penance are accompanied by sentiments of true contrition and humility, they will be pleasing before God, for, says the royal Prophet “a contrite and humbled heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” Cor humiliatum Deus non despicies. If we are wanting in these dispositions, ought we not to fear that all the practices of Lent, even the most painful ones, will be of little use to us?
COLLOQUY with Our Lord.