Wednesday, February 21, 2007

B16 on Lent

This reflection comes from a collection of then-Cardinal Ratzinger's articles and essays published by Ignatius Press in 1992 called "Co-Workers of the Truth":

"In her liturgical language, the Church gives the name "Quadragesima" (a period of forty days) to the time that begins with Ash Wednesday. By this means, and by the use of typological exegesis, she encloses us in a spiritual context. Israel wandered forty years in the desert; Elijah walked forty days to Horeb, the mountain of God; Jesus fasted forty days in the desert...

What is the meaning of this series of forties? At a later date in its history, Israel came to regard the forty years of its wanderings in the desert as the time of first love between God and Israel. The years in the desert seemed to them to be a time of special election. But the Bible depicts these years as a time of extreme danger and temptation, as a time when Israel murmured against its God, when it was dissatisfied with him and wanted to return to paganism. Is this not also a description of our own time? The Church today finds herself relegated once again, and in an entirely new way, to the forty days, to a time in the desert. ...

A Church in the desert; a Church in Quadragesima; that is what we experience today: exposure to emptiness, to a world that seems, so far as religion is concerned, to have become wordless, imageless, soundless. Exposure to a world in which the heaven above is dark and distant and beyond our reach.

And yet, for the Church of today, this time in the desert can become a time of grace in which a new love can grow out of the suffering caused by God's distance from us. If we wander on with patience and faith, then a new day can dawn out of the darkness. And God's bright world, the lost world of images and sounds, will be bestowed on us anew: a new morning in God's good creation. Amen."

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