The grace of being sorry of our sins at the steps of the Altar
Someone once beautifully said: “The devil knows your name but calls you by your sin. God knows your sin but calls you by your name”. These two voices pass through our hearts. Every one of us needs to make the decision whether to follow one voice or the other. It is good to hear our very name said by Jesus in the depths of our hearts. In this way, we start a liberating journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, from slavery of sin to the dignity and beauty of God’s children; from the Biblical foreign countries to the Fatherland (the journey of the Prodigal Son).
Although, Lent says a lot about the dust and mud of our sins and guilt, it also stresses the truth about us, and the truth is that we belong to God and God desires our return to Him. We shall return as sinners but also as His beloved children; with complete confidence we shall unravel our sins to God – all of them. It is important to bring our misery to God and ask Him and our neighbours for forgiveness before we approach the High Altar.
In Lent, we will stress the act of the Penitential Rite understood in the context of approaching the Holy of Holies. In Old Testament times, nobody was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies except the high priest. Only once a year, a priest used to offer the blood-and-incense sacrifice for the atonement of sin. In Exodus (Chapter 9), we read that the dwelling place of the presence of God was shut away behind a curtain in the temple and few people were allowed to pray outside the Holy of Holies. Christ Jesus tore down this curtain in the very act of dying on the Cross allowing us access into His sanctuary. He is the Holy of Holies and we are privileged to share our life with Him during the Holy Mass. Christ’s sacrifice is real and the Altar represents the Cross. The Holy of Holies has not lost anything in its sacredness though, and we need to stress that fact in our attitude towards the Altar and Christ’s Sacrifice of the Mass.
It’s even holier now than before! The Sanctuary of the Lord in our churches is the most sacred place in the world and the closeness of the Heart of Jesus is real while the Mass is celebrated. In the context of the approaching of the Holy of Holies, our Penitential Rite is given awe and focuses us on Calvary, on the very essence of God’s love.
On Ash Wednesday we were reminded: “Let the priest, the minister of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord.’” (Joel 2:17) Let us do so in Lent. The Penitential Rite will take place before the priest, altar servers and readers enter the Holy of Holies. Before entering the dwelling of the Lord, we will kneel and stay in silence praying for the grace of acknowledging our misery; for the grace of being sorry for our sins. In this way, we will prepare ourselves to take part in the Sacrifice of Christ that takes away our sin and attain everlasting Life.