The Grace and Duties of Lent

“Behold now is the accepted time : behold now is the day of salvation.” — 2 Cor. vi. 2.

Two subjects for consideration are indicated in these words firstly, a commendation of the present time, “Behold now is the accepted time;” secondly, the cause of this commendation is added, “Behold now is the day of salvation.”

I. On the first head it is to be noted, that the present time is called an “acceptable time,” for eight reasons (1) Because it is the time for seeking the Lord: Hos. x. 12, “It is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you.” (2) Because it is a time for reconciling the Lord: Ps. Ixix. 13, “My prayer is unto Thee, Lord, in an acceptable time.” (3) Because it is a time for correcting our ways: Heb. ix. 10, “Until the time of reformation” i.e., of the injustice of the Jews. (4) Because it is a time for restraining superfluities and vices: Cant. ii. 12 (Vulg.), “The time of pruning is come.” (5) Because it is the time of receiving the Divine compassion: Ps. cii. 13, “For the time to favour her, yea the set time, is come.” (6) Because it is the time for suffering tribulation: Jer. xxx. 7, “It is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” (7) Because it is the time of acquiring salvation: Ecclus. iv. 28, “Refrain not to speak in the time of salvation.” (8) Because it is a time for doing good: Ps. cxix. 126, “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work.”

II. On the second head it is to be noted, that this “day of salvation” exhorts and invites us by eight ways to holiness — (1) The Holy Scriptures, which are read at this time. The Gospels and Epistles which are read invite us to prayer, to fasting, to almsgiving, to just dealing, to repentance, and to other things of this sort, so that he must be indeed insensible who does not now do good. (2) The Creator invites us, Who is believed at this time to have made the world; so that he would be greatly neglectful who did not perform some good act for God, when He has made so many good things for us. (3) The creature invites us to this, which in the time of winter ceased from work, and now begins to be active again, as is seen in herbs, plants, and animals: Jer. viii. 7, “The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times” i.e., for building, &c. (4) The example of Christ invites us to well-doing, Who at this time wrought many good things for us: S. Bernard, “Who made me altogether and at once by a word, in regenerating me; Who said many things, and did many miracles, and endured hardships.” (5) The ordination of the Church invites us all to confession, and fasting, and frequenting of the church; whence he who does not do these things breaks the precepts of Mother Church: Prov. i. 8, “Forsake not the law of thy Mother.” (6) The incitement and habits of many, for now many begin to perform good works, so that a man ought to be ashamed to remain alone with the few: Heb. xii. 1, “Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (7) The abundant forming, out of Divine grace; for it is to be believed that God, Who bestowed so many good things upon us, in these days pours out more abundantly His grace upon us: whence it is read in the Epistle, “that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” (8) The expectation of the great Easter ought to exhort us to good, for he who expects a great festival ought to make a great vigil, wherefore the Church now sings, “It is not for naught that we rise in the morning before the light, because the Lord promised the Crown to the watchers;” and again, “We expect to receive the Body of Christ, which none ought to receive unless purged: 1 Cor. xi. 28, ‘Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that Bread and drink of that Cup.’ Whence so by worthily celebrating the Lenten fast at the present time we shall come to Horeb, the Mount of God to the heavenly Supper of the Gospel to which,”

From the Lenten Sermons of St. Thomas Aquinas, Homily #1

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