Today, crimson roses, indeed blood-red, framed the purple-tented tabernacle on the purple-draped altar in St. Peter’s Church. Today is Rose Sunday, a break in the somber tones of Lent, a day also called LaetareSunday, meaning Rejoice Sunday.
Recalling that this week we celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick (387-493), we sang “St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate,” a vigorous and moving hymn based on Patrick’s prayer, beginning with the line, “I bind unto myself today/ The strong Name of the Trinity…” and ending with the intimately delightful “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me . . .”. We sang, the organ booming, as the procession, led by the thurifer throwing out clouds of incense, followed by the torchbearers and crucifer, then the celebrant, acolytes, and assisting clergy, moved up the aisle confidently, joyously, steadily to the altar where Christ was mysteriously, mystically present in the Reserved Sacrament.
The Epistle and Gospel brought us back to Lent and its true nature, lessons themed with God’s grace, our reliance on him. Our Lenten disciplines, our rule, our fasting and abstinence, our assigned tasks, our good preacher explained, are nothing without grace. We do not earn points, but rather prepare ourselves to receive God’s grace. As we prepare to receive him in the Eucharist by taking part in the liturgy, the “work of the people,” just so we prepare for Easter with our Lenten discipline.
Two sacraments, we believe, are necessary for salvation: Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. In each, God’s grace pours upon us. We are healed of our wounds, forgiven our sins, and given life eternal.
Time passes and we journey through Lent. This morning we moved our clocks forward, watching time disappear before our eyes. Our own lives move forward as well, to their inevitable death, to a passage to a greater life, the fulfillment of this one.
We journey toward the blood-red cross and the rose-filled resurrection. We prepare for Grace to be poured upon us, now and then. We are transformed by Love, the love of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. We give thanks for St. Patrick, who speaks to us today, sixteen hundred years after he brought the good news of salvation to Ireland.