Lent – Its Origin and Purpose   

Lent – Its Origin and Purpose    

Lent is a time when the whole Church reflects on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; at the same time, it is a time for the unbaptized to prepare for baptism and for those already baptized, it is a time for personal spiritual renewal. 

In the 3rd to 4th century Church, preparation for baptism lasted several years. During that time of preparation, the unbaptized were instructed in the faith, given support in discontinuing their pagan practices and loyalties, and taught to live in a new way of life. It was in the final phase, which eventually came to be known as Lent, that they fasted and did penance, participated in sacred rituals and were baptized at the Easter Vigil.

The custom of imposing ashes on the heads of people was an ancient penitential practice among the Hebrews. In the 3rd to 4th centuries, ashes were imposed on the heads of those who were temporarily excommunicated from the Church community due to scandals such as apostasy, heresy, murder and adultery. In the 7th century, ashes were imposed during Ash Wednesday. Along with the imposition of ashes, penitents were dressed in sackcloth and during the forty days of Lent, they abstained from meat, alcohol, bathing, haircuts, sex and business transactions.

Fasting and abstinence are two different disciplines. Fasting has to do with the quantity of food eaten, while abstinence has to do with the kind of food which is denied to oneself. Both disciplines, however, promote self-denial, cleanse the conscience and enhance one’s prayer life. Another discipline of Lent is almsgiving, but the intent is to give to the needy what one has saved during fasting, abstinence and self-denial, rather than giving from one’s surplus. 

The stations of the Cross are a popular devotion during Lent. It draws the faithful to focus on the Passion and Death of Christ. During the crusades, it was popular for pilgrims to go to the Holy Land and walk in the footsteps of Jesus to Calvary. After the Moslems captured the Holy Land, these pilgrimages stopped. A substitute pilgrimage, called the Stations of the Cross, soon became a popular outdoor devotion in Europe. Later on, the Stations of the Cross were allowed to be held inside churches. In the 18th century, the Stations of the Cross were fixed at 14 stations. 

The practices and devotions during Lent may have changed through the centuries, but its purpose and meaning remains the same. The encounters of Jesus with evil, including His betrayal, arrest, suffering and death on the Cross, attest to the reality of suffering in life. From Jesus, we learn to accept what we must and to change what we can. But Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, and the Coming of the Holy Spirit attest to God’s triumph over evil and eternal death. Armed with this truth, Christians embrace setbacks and suffering as a means to the eternal glory that is to come; they also live happier and more fulfilling lives.

The Archdiocese of Atlanta has established an Intercultural Commission under the Office of Intercultural Ministries. The purpose of this Commission is to help close the gap in critical areas of need, with members offering counsel on how to address challenges and celebrate the beauty of the diverse cultures, races and ethnicities that enrich the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Fr. Bill is looking for 2 volunteers to act as the representatives of Holy Name of Jesus Chinese Catholic Mission and to participate in the coming regional discernment retreat. If you are interested or if you would like more information, please contact Fr. Bill.       

Ash Wednesday is this coming Wednesday, February 22. There will be Mass in Chinese at 12:00 noon with the imposition of ashes. For more information, please check our church website hnojatl.org.

During this Lenten season, the Stations of the Cross will be held two times per week. Stations of the Cross in Chinese will be on Wednesdays after the Chinese Mass at 12:00 noon, and Stations of the Cross in English will be on Fridays after the English Mass at 12:00 noon. All are invited to participate.   

The Chinese Lenten Retreat will be on Saturday, March 18, from 9am to 12noon. We have invited Fr. Tonguk Michael Ku, pastor of Korean Martyrs Church to lead this year’s retreat. All are welcome to attend. 

Attention Finance Council members, we will have a meeting today at 1:00pm in the Conference Room.

Please join us after Mass this morning for our potluck. Even if you cannot stay for lunch, Fr. Bill has bought a delicious cake for everyone to enjoy, especially for the kids.

The English class with Ms. Madison Pickney is scheduled in the Youth Room after Mass today. All are welcome to attend.

Prayer List: Liang Chenjing, Pan Bohao, Angela Griffin, Wang Dacheng, Long Guorui, Zhang Qiang, Li Kuiying and Xu Taicheng.