Out of the Wilderness into the Light
In the final stretches of Lent, the Church around the world is preparing to celebrate the most joyous of solemnities, Easter. Christians in Ukraine and Russia begin this week to bake a bread called Paska, which is only eaten during Easter, that is similar to an eggy version of Italian Panettone, while the Greeks bake their own version of Easter bread called Tsoureki which has dyed eggs stuffed and baked together with the dough.
Beyond the technicoloured eggs, the velvety chocolate confections, and the gorgeous whiff of spices and cinnamon from baking hot cross buns, meant as sustenance on Good Friday, approximately one million pilgrims across the globe have begun to embark on pilgrimages to Rome and to the Holy Land, to walk in the footsteps of Christ from Cross to grave to Resurrection.
As we enter into Holy Week, here are some ways, while no means exhaustive, to better prepare ourselves for Easter:
Make a Death-bed Confession
According to Pope Francis, the Sacrament of Reconciliation “flows directly from the Paschal Mystery,” when the Lord appeared to the disciples who were hiding indoors on Easter Evening and said, “Peace be with you!” and having breathed on them, said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” (John 20: 21-23) Pope Francis also adds that, “God never tires of forgiving us,” and that “Reconciliation renders present with particular efficacy the merciful face of God.” (Apostolic Penitentiary March 2015)
Having asked the Holy Spirit for the grace to thoroughly confess any sin. The Death-bed Confession is exactly what it sounds like – to make confession for your sins as if it were the confession that you were to make if you were lying on your death-bed. This involves a thorough examination of conscience and the asking for the Grace of the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin that needs confessing from conception to your present time. It may help to jot down your sins in your journal. Ask the Holy Spirit as well for the courage to confess all your sins to your confessor.
The Holy Week is an invitation to walk with Christ along His passion and resurrection. A wonderful way of preparing our hearts and spirit for this journey, is to set aside some time in the morning or the evening for the practice of daily spiritual reading. Some recommended texts besides the Scriptures, would be The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis, Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus, by James Martin, SJ, and What Jesus Saw from the Cross, by A. G. Sertillanges. Another book to consider, although not strictly in the sense of a literary text, would be The Stations of the Cross: Catholic Colouring Book Devotional by Drawn to Faith Adult Coloring Books, which provides prayer, inspiration, and devotion as you colour in the Stations of the Cross.
The Works of Mercy
The works of Mercy are actions we can do to extend God’s love and mercy to others.
The Corporal Works of Mercy are acts of kindness to help our neighbours with their physical and material needs. These include: Feeding the hungry; Sheltering the homeless; Clothing the naked; Visiting the sick and the imprisoned; Burying the dead; and Giving alms to the poor. Maybe you could bake Easter Bread and give it to the poor.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are acts of compassion with which we help our neighbours in their emotional and spiritual needs. These include: Instructing the ignorant; Counseling the doubtful; Admonishing the sinner; Bearing patiently those who wrong us; Forgiving offences; Comforting the afflicted; and Praying for the living and the dead.
A Holy Week Scrapbook
Last but not least, this is something the whole family can do together. Collect sacred images and inspirational quotes from Scripture and spiritual writers pertaining to Lent and Easter and put them together in a scrapbook as you map out, draw out, and give testimony of your Faith journey with Christ.
By Brian Bartholomew Tan