We find ourselves this Lenten week surrounded by a trifecta of celebratory days—this is odd. Shouldn’t we be dour? Shouldn’t we be occupied with doing penance and mourning for our sins? Were not those ashes to set us on a path of dismal gloom until the great Easter Proclamation brings it to a happy end?
To answer these questions, let us use Our Lady’s words as our guide: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1:47).
These words are repeated each day in the Magnificat of the Divine Office, and follow shortly after the Gospel selection for this Saturday’s Solemnity of the Annunciation. Within this text is contained that notion celebrated in Laetare Sunday, St. Joseph’s feast day, and the Annunciation: rejoicing.
To rejoice in God is to rejoice in his glory, manifested in all of creation. God’s work of grace in each one of us most especially manifests this glory (ST I-II, q. 113, a. 9, ad 2). To celebrate Laetare Sunday then, is to rejoice in God’s grace which purifies our souls through Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in preparation for Easter.
The Solemnity of Saint Joseph observed on Monday gives us the opportunity to celebrate the example of the silent foster father of the Christ child. Saint Joseph sought not his own will, but the will of God—how else could he have accepted such a strange message from the angel in his dream? He leaves us this example: finding our fulfillment in God’s will regardless of how overwhelmed, fearful, or unworthy we might feel to take it up. Saint Joseph shows that rejoicing need not consist in external jubilation, but is also fittingly expressed in silent and fortitudinous acceptance of God’s providence.
Saint Joseph’s acceptance of God’s will is beautifully complimented and fulfilled by the Solemnity of the Annunciation this Saturday, celebrating that crucial event from the first chapter of Luke. When troubled by God’s providential plan for our lives, we join Mary in her awe and questioning—“how can this be?”—and we find the same consolation in Gabriel’s reply: “nothing will be impossible with God.” Mary’s example of “may it be done unto me according to your word” becomes our prayer of rejoicing in the face of what seems to be a burden too heavy to bear.
The execution of God’s will is not without its trials, but as Saint Peter reminds us “there is cause for rejoicing here” even in our suffering (1 Pet 1:6-7). Lent dares us to add “especially in these trials.” When the going gets tough, and God has given us what seems to be too much to handle, we rejoice in the grace that he gives us to carry it out. Lent and its penitential practices allow us to come to terms with our own brokenness and unworthiness, reminded by the ashes of Ash Wednesday that we are dust, mere mortals. Yet in all this, God has made himself known, that we may carry out his will in our lives.
Image: Luca Giordano, The Dream of St. Joseph
Originally posted on Dominicana Journal