On Thursday, the Church celebrated the mid-way point of Lent. Traditionally, the mid-Lent Thursday is kept with some festivity and the tables of monasteries feature more abundant and better-tasting food. This festivity is a kind of anticipation of Easter joy and an encouragement to us to keep going strong with our Lenten fasting. In order not to tempt the faithful to break the Lenten fast, this mid-Lent festivity was transferred in ancient times to the following Sunday, which we keep today. This is the origin of Laetare Sunday, which we mark by using rose vestments, the pipe organ, and flowers at the altar.
It is very merciful of our Mother, the Church, to allow us to celebrate this foretaste of Easter today. She has it in her heart to encourage us to finish strong this holy season, especially as we embark on its more somber days in Passiontide. The joy of Easter stands before us, urging us on as we join Our Lord in His Passion and Death by our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We are taught today the value of this Heavenly encouragement. We are given a pattern for how we should seek consolation in our lives: the future glory of the Resurrection is our present joy, enlivening our suffering and dying with Christ.
The Station for today in Rome is the church of the “Holy Cross in Jerusalem,” adorned with Jerusalem treasures by St. Helen. In the Liturgy today, the Church longs for Jerusalem as she is in the midst of her Seventy Years of Babylonian Exile. This is a continuation of the theme of Septuagesima, but now the Promised Land is in sight and our hearts and steps are quickened by hope. This hope is the true consolation of our hearts. All other consolations are false and illusory. Even the human consolations that are not sinful in themselves are not sufficient for allowing us to order our lives to the Resurrection. We need to find our happiness in Jesus alone if we are to experience a sustainable existence in His Life.
This consolation is ours especially in the use of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist. The Sacrament of Penance corresponds beautifully to the fragrance of the Golden Rose, which marks the ancient celebration of this day in the Church of Rome. Sin is putrid. It rots our souls. It is a leprosy. Confession restored us to health and integrity. It makes our souls fragrant with holiness. By Penance, our souls are made beautiful like the Pope’s ceremonial rose. In receiving Jesus in the Eucharist today, we are filled with a greater consolation than the multitudes who were fed by Him from the five loaves and two fish. In our Communion today, we anticipate Easter and Heaven. Let us find our consolation in its only true Source!
Fr. Joseph Previtali