On Ash Wednesday we heard in solemn assembly the words proclaimed from the prophet Joel, “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people.”
There are many ways we gather for prayer during our Lenten pilgrimage. On Thursday, after 5:30 Mass, we have the public recitation of the Most Holy Rosary and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. A parishioner who attended this said, “You really know you’re praying!” Another parishioner and recent convert said, “Where has this been all my life? This is wonderful!”
When we gather for adoration of the Sacrament, Our Lord invites us into the inner room of his heart where his heart speaks to our heart. As the Psalmist chants, “Deep calls to deep.” (Ps. 42). This is the inner room of which the gospel of Matthew speaks: the inner room of his Sacred Heart.
What kind of assembly is the Lord speaking of in Joel, to which he calls us? Surely it is the kind of assembly that he speaks of as pleasing to him, in the Sermon on the Mount: an assembly of people gathered together to pray, to enter the inner room of his Sacred Heart. That is where our Lord invites us to hear his heart speak within the silence of our heart.
We also gather for Stations of the Cross on Friday night after Mass to follow in the footsteps of Jesus on his way to Golgotha. We walk with Him on a pilgrimage to the Cross where salvation has come into the world, and there we behold the face of the crucified Jesus in whom “God has proved his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ dies for us.” And walking the stations, we accompany Our Lord to Calvary, where he has opened his heart to reveal God’s love for us.
This ancient Roman tradition helps us understand that Lent is a pilgrimage inviting us to renew our spirit through continuous effort to purify our souls, leaving behind what clutters and clouds the mind. Lent is a gift we receive from God Himself who leads and invites us on a pilgrimage into a deeper communion with him through Jesus Christ.
What a wonderful thing it is to recognize that through our Lenten pilgrimage we lift our voices in prayer with those of 2000 years of faithful Christians. When we enter into the church and kneel down at the foot of the Cross, we gaze upon the face of the crucified Jesus and pray,
“Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before Your face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech You to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment; while I contemplate with great love and tender pity Your five wounds, pondering over them within me, and calling to mind the words which, long ago, David the prophet spoke in Your own person concerning You, my Jesus: “They have pierced My hands and My feet; they have numbered all My bones.”