Lent is a holy season of purification and enlightenment. The liturgical celebration of the Triduum and especially of Easter was central to the early Church as it still remains today. This was and is still the privileged time of the baptism and full initiation of new Christians in the life of the Church. The season of Lent was rightly ordered toward those preparing for baptism at Easter. For catechumens who are preparing for baptism, this period of time preceding Easter was a special time of “purification”, intended to “purify the minds and hearts of the elect as they search their own consciences and do penance.” (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) In addition, Lent is also a period of “enlightenment”, whereby this period is “intended as well to enlighten the minds and hearts of the elect with a deeper knowledge of Christ the Saviour.” (RCIA)
The celebration of certain rites, particularly the scrutinies and the presentations of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, brings about this process of purification and enlightenment and extends it over the course of the entire Lenten season. This special season of Lent quickly became understood not only as a time for those preparing for baptism, but also for those who were already Christian to prepare to renew their own baptism, joining in solidarity with the catechumens (technically now the “elect” having celebrated the Rite of Election with the bishop on the first Sunday of Lent) in the holy disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We are blessed this year to be joining two young men in this period of purification and enlightenment as they journey toward their baptism and full initiation at Easter.
The scrutinies are celebrated on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays in Lent. “The scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. For the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. These rites, therefore, should complete the conversion of the elect and deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ and to carry out their decision to love God above all.” (RCIA) These scrutinies are celebrated on the Sundays in Lent so that all the faithful may join in prayer for these elect, interceding on their behalf. The readings and gospel passages, in particular, on these Sundays correspond with each scrutiny as well, which the elect then spends more time reflecting on extending the Liturgy of the Word for them, after their dismissal from the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
May the rest of this holy season of Lent be for all of us a period of purification and enlightenment!
I am, in our Lord, yours.
Fr. Brian Trueman