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The purpose of Lent


What does it mean to become a Christian.

DO7151.jpgThe purpose of Lent is to keep alive in our consciousness and our life the fact that being a Christian can only take the form of becoming a Christian ever anew;  that it is not an event now over and done with but a process requiring constant practice.

Let us ask, then:  What does it mean to become a Christian?  How does this take place?...  If individuals are to become Christians they need the strength to overcome;  they need the power to stand fast against the natural tendency to let themselves be carried along.

Life in the most inclusive sense has been defined as "resistance to the pull of gravity."  Only where such effort is expended is there life;  where the effort ceases life too ceases.  If this is true in the biological sphere, it is all the more true in the spiritual.

The human person is the being which does not become itself automatically.  Nor does it do so simply by letting itself be carried along and surrendering to the natural gravitational pull of a kind of vegetative life.  It becomes itself always and only by struggling against the tendency simply to vegetate and by dint of a discipline that is able to rise above the pressures of routine and to liberate the self from the compulsions of utilitarian goals and instincts.

Our world is so full of what immediately impinges on our senses that we are in danger of seeing only details and losing sight of the whole.  It takes effort to see beyond what is right in front of us and to free ourselves from the tyranny of what directly presses upon us.



Pope Benedict XVI. "The purpose of Lent." from Dogma and Preaching (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2011).

Reprinted with permission of Ignatius Press.

This excerpt appeared in Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI.

The Author

Benedict73smBenedict72Pope Benedict XVI is the author of Jesus of Nazareth, Vol II, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol I, Caritas in Veritate: Charity in Truth, Saved in Hope: Spe Salvi, God Is Love: Deus Caritas Est,The End of Time?: The Provocation of Talking about God, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, Salt of the Earth: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church at the End of the Millennium, God and the World: Believing and Living in Our Time, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, The Spirit of the Liturgy, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Introduction to Christianity, Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, Behold the Pierced One, and God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life.

Copyright © 2011 Ignatius Press
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