Overview of the Meditations
These meditations, inspired by those of the Roman Catholic Bishop, Richard Challoner (1691-1781), are designed to help you to be reconciled to God through prayer and repentance. In this way you share in the Passion of Christ and draw, once again, closer to Our Lord. While these meditations are in the Roman Catholic tradition, they all arise from Holy Scripture and the wisdom of saints and celebrated holy men and women. In this way they should be suitable for any Christian or, indeed, for anyone who yearns to move closer to the universal truth and force of life, which is God. Here is found that simple, yet eternal, discovery: all life is one.
There are three meditations to help you examine your life in preparation for Ash Wednesday so that you become aware of how you may have displeased God. We need to remember here that to displease God is, in the end, to displease our true self. This makes us unhappy, so we may say with the truth of our own experience that the unhappiness of God is our own unhappiness as well. This awareness arises when we examine our life. It leads to repentance and asking for God’s forgiveness. We long to be good and in this we find we long for love. Such is the result of forgiveness.
Following these meditations in preparation for Lent, there are three meditations for each of the Lenten weeks with one for Ash Wednesday and ending with one for Good Friday. The meditations speak of our prayer life because prayer is the way we “talk” with God, leaving aside worldly values and all our anxieties and worries. To pray is to invite hope into our lives. Everyone needs hope, especially that given to us by God, because such hope in the promises of God holds us together in good times and bad times.
During Lent, our fasting as an act of penance and our more frequent prayer lead us back to God. In this way, all Christians are able to share with profound humility in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. We participate in the death and resurrection of Christ and his promise of salvation by dying to worldly values, actions, and passions. In their place, we take up the virtues and values that please God and which Christ himself taught us so clearly and so well. During Lent, we are given an opportunity to renew our life in Christ through the holy forgiveness of God’s endless love for us.
The Season of Lent in 2016 is from 10 February to 26 March when the cry of every Christian heart is in remembrance of the unconditional love offered by God through Christ. It acknowledges the weakness of all men and women in falling from the grace of virtue into the unhappiness of vice. Lent is a plea for forgiveness and a yearning for love. This cry from the heart is the expression of our individual and collective need for forgiveness. We ask in humility: God, have mercy on me a sinner!
Here then, in this plea of just a few words, is the theme and the meaning of Lent. It is a special time in which we pray for forgiveness and offer remorse, looking to the Passion of Christ for our inspiration. We prepare for the coming joy of Easter by being reconciled to God. The meditations offered here hopefully will help you with that aim.
On the aims of Lent
The Season of Lent gives us a wonderful opportunity to clean up our souls and to be reconciled with God. We do this by doing penitence, which leads us to a time of devotion. In such devotion we commemorate the sufferings and death of our Redeemer. We are prepared by such devotion, based as it is in our penitence and prayers, for celebrating the great Paschal solemnity when it arrives. Even our poorest and most feeble imitation of Christ in his suffering on the Cross can bring an exercise of mind, body and spirit that purifies us through love. This process makes us ready to participate more fully in the divine mysteries at Easter. These are the holy aims of Lent.
When you think about these aims, they are very profound indeed, because they bring together those elements which take us into the embrace of God: repentance for displeasing God whether by commission or omission; the plea for forgiveness and the asking for God’s grace and mercy in our lives; the reconciliation with God in our love for him and his eternal love for us; taking time to meditate on the meaning in our lives of the Cross and the gift of Salvation; increasing our awareness of Jesus through our fasting and other acts in memory of his suffering; an increased devotion through prayer, reflection on Holy Scripture, and better attendance in collective worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ; and, finally, the seeking of frequent nourishment for our faith through Eucharist participation.
Consider how Lent is a time, which God claims for himself, as being an offering of our year to him. It is an ancient tithe, this offering of ourselves, in order that he might sanctify all things in his mercy and love for us. Such an offering, this annual tithe of our devotion, ought to be made to God without blemish. Isn’t this what your aim is in these Lenten days?
Finally, think how the time of Lent is designed for people that live in the world where they are busy with all the responsibilities and concerns of ordinary living. This makes the Season of Lent, set aside as it is, a special time for a respite from our daily struggle in this world and for the renewal of our hope in the promises of God. A time in which we can make our spiritual life a priority. A time in which we can examine our interior self, make amends where we have fallen away from Christ’s path, and renew our values and virtues that are inspired by God.
It is the season in which to retire as much as possible from distractions of the world in order to take a serious view of the whole state of our inner life, which is to say, to take time to examine what and who we are in this life. To ask ourselves: Are we pleasing to God? To wonder if Jesus appeared today to us, would the kingdom within us be a place in which he would wish to reside? To discover how you stand in relation to God? To your neighbours? To yourself? To ask yourself what exactly stays hidden within you that you know only too well is displeasing to God? Is it disguised by some pretext of good or wrapped up comfortably under the robe of your self-love?
These are the Lenten days we set aside to deepen a true knowledge of ourselves, to apply a proper remedy to all our evils, and to lay a solid foundation of a good life for the future.
Getting the most from these meditations
Before you start the meditations, find a quiet place. It doesn’t matter if this is a pew in a church when no service is going on, your bedroom, a bench in the park, or even the privacy of the bathroom if there is no other place. Turn off your mobile, do not answer any telephone, turn off all the audio, and forget the Internet, the radio and the TV. Tell anyone you live with that this is your time with God and you do not want to be interrupted. You need to be still in body and mind so that your spirit has a chance to be in charge. Make these meditations a regular practice by setting aside certain days in the week for them. For example, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday strike a balance with attendance at the Eucharist on Sunday. Try to do these meditations at the same hour each time. Such regularity helps enormously in getting the most out of your meditation. When you feel your body and mind feels calm, start with the prayer that Jesus gave you, The Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be your name;
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
Do not at this point rush into reading the meditation as if you were reading a newspaper or a book. The kind of reading you want to do is slow and thoughtful consideration of what is being said. Let go of the thoughts and worries of this world that may pass through your mind. Any restlessness you may feel is normal, because in a busy life stillness and silence do not come easily—even if you are doing it for God. Try to turn your thoughts more fully to heavenly matters.
When you feel calm, take up the meditation. Let it speak to you. Consider where and how it applies to you. Sit quietly and allow Christ to lead you into his friendship. Reflect on what is being said in the meditation. If you feel drawn to the presence of the holy, if the spirit opens your heart, then stay in this contemplative state as long as its lasts. Complete the meditation by asking in a few words for God’s grace and mercy.
If you are interested in the biblical references noted in the meditation and want to read them, then go to Holy Scripture when you have finished the meditation. The Word is the most powerful teaching, the most effective meditation, and the finest inspiration that you will ever be given for your life. Listen to it with all your heart. Open your mind to the vision it brings. Let it take hold of the way in which you live. Let Christ, who is holding himself out to you, take your hand in his.
References and Permissions
Bible References for the Meditations for Lent
Note: Scripture quotations are from the following bibles in order of most referenced, using the biblical passage which appeared to the author as the clearest and easiest to understand by the reader. Permissions are either not needed, already granted or in the process of being requested. All psalms quoted are from The Psalms, arranged by Joseph Gelineau and permission is being requested. Any permission over-sights are unintentional and on notification by the copyright holder, acknowledgement will be made on the website.
- The New Jerusalem Bible, Darton-Longman & Todd Ltd. & Doubleday & Co.,Inc. London 1985
- Good News Bible, 2nd Ed., American Bible Society, The Bible Society/Harpers Collins, London 1994
- La Bible, Bayard, Boyer, Frédéric et al, Paris/Montréal 2001
- New Revised Standard Version, Division of the Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, Crossroads Publishing, USA, 2000
Selected Other References for the Meditations for Lent
Note: These are listed by book or works title first, the volume/author/editor/translator/publisher/place/date. The titles are not alphabetized or in any particular order.
- The Divine Office, The Liturgy of the Hours according to the Roman Rite, Vols I,II, & III, Collins, London/Glasgow, E.J. Dwyer, Sidney, Talbot, Dublin, 1974
- The New Jerome Bibical Commentary, eds Brown, Raymon E. Fitzmyer, J.; & Murphy, R.E., Geoffrey Chapman/Cassell, London 1990
- The Apocrypha of the Old Testament, revised edition, Metzger, Bruce M, ed., OUP, Oxford, 1957
- Meditations for Everyday of the Year, Bishop Richard Challoner, London 1754 and Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd edition 1880.
- Life & Times of Bishop Challoner (1691-1781), Burton, Edward H., 2 Vols, ongmans, Green&Co., London 1909
- Augustine of Hippo, Brown, Peter, University of California Press, Berkely/Los Angeles 1967
- The Rule of Saint Benedict , Adalbert de Vogüé, Cistercian Study Series, Cistercian Publications, Michigan, USA, 1983
- Calmaldolese Extraordinary, Dom Jean Leclerq & Bll. Paul Giustiniani, Ercam Editions, Ohio, USA 2nd Ed.2008
- Charles de Foucauld, Le Prėdestiné, Pottier, René, Fernand Sorlot, Paris, 1944
- Meditations on the Life & Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Tauler, John, from 1875 edition, Aeterna Press, London, 2015
- The Ascent of Mount Carmel, St.John of the Cross, trans. by David Lewis, Thomas Baker, London, 1928
- Introduction to the New Testament, Brown, Raymond E. YUP, New Haven, USA & London, 1997
- Bernard of Clairvaux, Tamburello, D.E. Crossroads Publishing Co., USA, 2000
- Prayers & Meditations of Saint Anselm, Ward, Benedicta, Penguin Books, Lonmdon, 1979
- Prayer, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Littledale, A.V. trans., SPCK, London
- Households of God- The Rule of St. Benedict, Parry, David, Darton, Longman & Todd, London 1980
- Solitude & Love of the World, Merton, Thomas, Burns & Oates, London,1997
- The Inner Experience, Merton, Thomas, 8 articles, Cistercian Studies Quarterly,Vols 1-8 1983/1984, Trustees of the Merton Legacy Trust
- The Normal Christian Life, Nee, Watchman, Tyndale House Publishers, Illinois, USA 1957
- Introduction to the Divine Life, St. Francis de Sales, Anthony Clarke, Hertfordshire UK, 1990.
- Selected Writing of St. Therese of Ávila, Doheny, W. ed., Bruce Publishing, Milwaukee, USA, 1950.
- The Psalms, Gelineau, Joesph, Collins, London 1963
© “Meditations for Lent” by Stafford Whiteaker from “CALLED INTO LIGHT — Meditations with Bishop Challoner for the Christian Year” by Stafford Whiteaker to be published by Gracewing Ltd in late 2021. Permission is granted for quoting from these meditations as long as the source by book title and author is credited. Pre-ordering via www.gracewing.co.uk. (Please note that foreign rights including USA have not yet been finalised. Permission has been granted by the author for this book to be translated into the French language as well as the usual translations given in foreign rights editions.)