THEN THEY CRUCIFIED HIM. (St. Mark 15, 24). This one sentence of four simple words is used by St. Mark to express the greatest act of love, the Passion of Christ. At that moment, three nails were driven into the body of JESUS leaving nail marks that remained even after the Resurrection.
Lent 2021 arrives in the midst of our extended Lent of 2020 caused by the pandemic. How will we “celebrate” Lent this year? What will you do differently? I recall my Catholic school days when Sister Anicetta, F.S.S.J., the cafeteria manageress at Mater Dolorosa School, served fish cakes and homemade French fries every Friday, Lent or not. So, it wasn’t the menu that made the Lenten Friday after Ash Wednesday nor any other Friday in Lent unique. Rather, after lunch on that particular Friday of the “porch “ of Lent, Father Pastor came over to School to preside over the blessing of carpenter nails. Each student received three nails as a reminder of the nails that pierced the Precious Body of Christ. Students were instructed to carry these three nails on his or her person for all 40 days of Lent as a visual reminder of the Passion of Christ, the Lamb of God, whose unselfish sacrifice taught us to die to self so we might live the Gospel way of life as we ought. The Church Fathers teach that all are called to holiness. However, along the path of holiness, Christians with the help of God, must endure and fend off three great enemies: Satan, sin and death. Satan, sin, and death intensify their plan to turn the Faithful away from God and the Church especially during Lent. Thus, as instructed by Christ Himself in the 6th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, it is fitting to have three traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to combat our three enemies of Satan, sin, and death. The three Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving assist us to grow in holiness and be more and more like Christ, the Paschal Lamb, and to live fully our baptismal call to be “another Christ”: a Gospel people loving and joyfully serving God, washing the feet of our neighbor, seeking Truth, working for justice and doing the most good to the glory of God answering God’s invitation, “Come now, and set things right.” (Isaiah, 1,16).
Satan, sin, and death selfishly turn us away from God and are the exact opposites of the three Lenten practices which are grounded in love, make us more like Christ, turn us towards God and coincide with Christ’s wounds of love made by the three nails. For 300 years, every Passionist has worn the Passionist sign that bears the three nails of the crucifixion. After the Passionist sign with the three nails is attached physically for the very first time to a Passionist, it is only after being sealed with the sign of the three nails that the Passionist vows to the utmost to promote among the Faithful a grateful remembrance of and a devotion towards the Passion and Death of Christ. Every morning when Passionists throughout the whole world attach daily this sign to their habit near their hearts that bears the three nails, it is both a collective and personal reverent ode to Christ’s wounds of love.
How will you bear the three nails this Lenten Season? As we continue to celebrate the 300th year since the founding of the Congregation of the Passion, all retreatants visitors, and staff of Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center have the opportunity to pray the Passionist Chaplet of the Five Wounds in the new ‘Memorial to Life, Our Lady of Sorrows’ garden shrine dedicated to Christ’s wounds of love. Thus, let us make Holy Lent a little different this year by feasting on the graces received through the practices of the three Lenten disciplines and include the devotion to the Five Glorious Wounds of Christ as part of our prayer life and discipline.
In a mystical revelation, Christ made known to Blessed Angela, a Medieval Italian Franciscan, His divine joy and favor to all those who expressed devotion to His Five Holy and Glorious Wounds. Just as the marks left by the three nails and the lance which were responsible for the Five Glorious Wounds of Christ remained on Christ’s glorified Body, so too the nail marks remain on us, the Mystical Body of Christ, to remind all of Christ’s salvific act of love and our Christian commitment to The Holy Gospel in and out of season.
Prayerfully and gratefully, Deacon Nicholas Divine, C.P.