St Cecilia Triduum February

St Cecilia Triduum February

Prayer and fasting from Thursday 1 to Saturday 3 February.

This month’s triduum falls as we prepare for the beginning of Lent. The three Sundays that precede Ash Wednesday, known traditionally as Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, each have a specific lesson for us as we are about to enter the great penitential season, and so will furnish us with our three reflections for this month’s triduum of prayer and fasting.

Septuagesima Sunday is a call to arms. The entire liturgy of that Sunday is a convincing presentation of the seriousness of life and the absolute necessity of working hard to achieve salvation. This includes first of all being certain that being part of the Church in no way assures us of salvation if our way of life does not merit it. The clear teaching of our Lord on the fewness of the elect is a prod to each of us. If we do not work out our salvation with fear and trembling (cf. Phil. 2:12), we will not be saved. If we are fools enough to imagine hell might be empty, when Jesus told us the opposite, then we are certainly not worthy of salvation. So, let’s role up our sleeves and get to work in the Lord’s vineyard without delay. Now.

Sexagesima Sunday presents us with the image of God’s word which is sown around the world like a life-giving seed, but which only produces fruit when it falls in fertile ground. In most cases it is either eaten up by distracting messages of the world or choked by possessions and vain ambitions. The example of St Paul is given in the epistle to show us how much one must be ready to suffer for the kingdom of God. In the midst of it all, we are reassured that Divine Grace makes strong those who are feeble and makes possible what is impossible to our weakness. Our frailty is therefore no cause for discouragement. On the contrary, the more we realise it and ask for God’s help, the more help we get and the stronger we become to overcome temptations and perform good works.

Quinquagesima Sunday gives us to read St Paul’s magnificent hymn to charity in 1 Corinthians, ch. 13. This long meditation on what it means to love in truth is the last signal Holy Mother Church offers us as we prepare to cross the threshold into Lent, as if to remind us that whatever the number or however austere our mortifications, if they are not animated by true love of God and neighbour, then they are literally worthless for our salvation and perfection. In the Gospel, our Lord already announces His impending passion and death, thus calling us to unite our sufferings with His, but He also announces His resurrection, giving us the hope of awaiting Easter with holy joy, as St Benedict urges us.