The conclusion of Lent draws near

By | March 6, 2013

When you arrive at church watch for “out of the ordinary” things that might be occurring.

This weekend is traditionally known as Laetare Sunday. It draws its name from the first word of the Introit antiphon, “Rejoice.” You may see the color rose used in the vestments or altar frontals. Flowers, which traditionally are not used in church during Lent, may make a brief appearance this weekend. As in Gaudete Sunday in Advent, this Sunday signals that a time of particular renewal and penance is nearing its conclusion. For some of us, the sight of the rose color will be welcome, because indeed, we have been focused during this Lenten time to give more time to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For others, the rose color might serve as a reminder that Lent is almost at its conclusion. It is up to you now if you let these days slip by like any other, there is still time to “turn from sin and hear the Gospel.”

If you were to attend Mass at two different churches this weekend you could hear two different Gospels: the story of the prodigal son or the story of the man born blind. If your parish community has catechumens (people who through the RCIA are preparing to receive baptism at the Easter Vigil), the church provides for them and us, on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent to hear the great Gospel stories of healing: “the woman at the well,” “the man born blind” and the “raising of Lazarus from the dead.” If you do not have catechumens, you will hear the Gospel from the Cycle C readings.

This Sunday also is known as “Mothering Sunday,” however in our American culture this is quite obscure. Traditionally, on this Sunday, people visit their mother church, in our case, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. Another part of the tradition includes people, at the end of Mass in their own home parish, going out of doors, surrounding the church and, as they hold hands, giving their “mother” a symbolic hug.

Around the 11th century, another tradition began on Laetare Sunday, the blessing of the golden rose. The Holy Father gives this blessing. The rose is fashioned from gold and points towards Christ’s risen majesty. Musk and balsam is poured over the rose. After the blessing, the rose is stored until it is given away as a token of reverence or affection. Recipients have included churches and sanctuaries, royalty, military figures and governments.

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.

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