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How Lent is meant to be a spiritual battle

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Ben White | Unsplash CC0

Philip Kosloski - published on 02/21/22

We should approach Lent as it truly is, a spiritual battle against the world, the flesh and the Devil.

Lent is much more than a time of spiritual preparation for Easter. For much of the Church’s history, it was looked at as a time of spiritual battle.

This connection is made most explicit in the opening prayer for Mass on Ash Wednesday.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the holy spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Dom Prosper Gueranger comments on this aspect of Lent in his Liturgical Year.

Let us then rouse ourselves and prepare for the spiritual combat. But in this battling of the spirit against the flesh we need good armor. Our holy mother the Church knows how much we need it and therefore does she summon us to enter into the house of God that she may arm us for the holy contest.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of our spiritual warfare, a time to make ourselves battle ready.

We are entering today upon a long campaign of the warfare spoken of by the apostles, forty days of battle, forty days of penance. We shall not turn cowards if our souls can but be impressed with the conviction that the battle and the penance must be gone through.

Pope Francis also talked about how Lent is a time of spiritual battle in an address on the first Sunday of Lent in 2015.

The Church reminds us of that mystery at the beginning of Lent, so that it may give us the perspective and the meaning of this Time, which is a time of combat. Lent is a time of combat! A spiritual combat against the spirit of evil (cf. Collective Prayer for Ash Wednesday). 

Pope Francis points out how this is how Jesus passed his days of fasting and prayer in the desert, battling with Satan.

St. Mark writes in today’s Gospel: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him” (1:12-13). With these simple words the Evangelist describes the trials willingly faced by Jesus before he began his messianic mission. It is a trial from which the Lord leaves victorious and which prepares him to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. In these 40 days of solitude, he confronts Satan [in “hand-to-hand combat“], He unmasks his temptations and conquers him. And through Him, we have all conquered, but we must protect this victory in our daily lives.

As we approach Lent, let us see it as it truly is, a time of spiritual battle where we fight against those sins in our lives that prevent us from enjoying complete union with God.

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