1st Sunday of Lent
27 February 2011
1st SUNDAY OF LENT
From a sermon by Isaac of Stella
Whenever temptation comes upon you, be it sickness, poverty, severe observance, long continuance in the same old place, be it the frustration that results from the remoteness of the monastery and its strict silence, plus other possibilities past counting, let us, through reading, meditation or prayer, rouse Christ from sleeping in our regard. Let us give our full attention to the lesson his cross and passion have for us; bitten suddenly by the serpent below let us look at the serpent lifted on high. As the blessed Apostle Peter tells, Christ suffered for our sakes, and left you his own example; you were to follow in his footsteps.
Let us take him dear friends, not only as an example to follow, but as our medicine, lest when bitten we die. He must not only inspire endurance, he must bestow the gift of perseverance. He is not merely the pattern in the fight; he is the power that carries to victory. Here the wary and innocent dove makes her nest in the cleft rock and crannied wall. Where else should the swallow find a nest for her brood, but at your altars, Lord of hosts?
From these altars does the sweet scent, all myrrh and incense, go up, as it is written: Here , O God, is sacrifice, a broken spirit; a heart that is contrite and humbled you, O God, will never disdain.
Ignorance of this had no place in that soul that knowing both the destination and the direction said, I will betake myself to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense.
Weary of itself and sad of mood, the soul calls to him, the Lord Jesus, its Saviour, not in the highest heaven to which he ascended to the glory which he had with the Father before the world began, but in this land of Jordan
, that is, of descent, the land of Hermon’s foothills where one depth makes answer to another. This means that our self-denial, our suffering, out endurance looks to the death, passion and endurance of Christ our Lord for effective inspiration.
It is those on this mountain of myrrh that Saint Paul addresses in the words: You have undergone death, and your life is hidden away now with Christ in God.
Ever mindful, then, of our Saviour, most particularly of his love, suffering and endurance, that greatest evidence of his undeserved love for us and best pattern of what he expects of us, let us never grow weary, but stand firm against all trials whatever, partners of his sufferings for his sake so that we may share glory with him. Such is the gift Christ himself gladly makes us. Apart from him we have no such power. Nothing is beyond our powers thanks to him who lives and rules with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Sermo 15, 12-15: SC 130,290-292)
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