Mortification and Liberation

News: Commentary
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  March 6, 2019   

To mortify is to fortify

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The same spiritual tools of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that Catholics use during Advent to prepare for Christmas are used again as they prepare for Easter.

The old adage "to mortify is to fortify" means Catholics use these spiritual weapons to put to death their vices and strengthen their virtues. These three-fold spiritual exercises are to be practiced in unison. Pope Paul VI in his 1966 apostolic constitution Paenitemini calls them a "traditional triad of 'prayer—fasting—charity.'"

By observing Lent's 40 days of prayer, almsgiving and fasting, Catholics imitate Our Lord's 40-day fast in the desert recorded in chapter four of Matthew's Gospel. By it, Our Lord not only showed man how to vanquish the devil but also showed him how to overcome the threefold concupiscence listed in 1 John 2:16: "The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life."

During Lent, Catholics prepare for a more fruitful reception at Easter of the graces merited by Christ's redemptive Passion and death. They strive to unite more intimately with God in prayer, attempt to mortify their unruly desires with self-denial and give themselves more fully to others by alms and works of mercy.

In His Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in chapter six of Matthew's Gospel, Christ informs Christians that secrecy is needed in order to fruitfully practice this triad of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does; that your alms may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. ... When you shall pray, enter into your chamber, and having shut the door, pray to your Father in secret: and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. ... When you fast anoint your head, and wash your face; that you appear not to men to fast, but to your Father who is in secret: and your Father who sees in secret, will repay you.

Watch the panel discuss the graced period of Lent in The Download—Mortification and Liberation.

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