Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

‘Domine, ut videam’: a Homily for Ash Wednesday

Yesterday evening, the Church prayed this antiphon:  

“Have mercy on me, Son of David. What would you like me to do for you? Lord, that I may see!” 

That was from the Gospel last Sunday, of course. But the fittingness of this text struck me for the first time—it is the last phrase of the sacred liturgy immediately before we enter holy Lent: Domine, ut videam! 

This cry of the man on the road to Jericho is our anthem and prayer for Lent. In truth, Lent is a time to see again, the privileged time for seeing whatever impedes our way to God. At other times, because of our own negligence or the distractions and sorrows of life, perhaps we let our sight grow weak; a certain blindness takes hold of us. But now is the time for seeing.  

Our fasting, prayer, and almsgiving ought to have the function of removing our spiritual blindness. These disciplines have other functions too, most certainly. But as this antiphon demonstrates, Lent is meant to give us eyes for God again.  

A word about Jericho. Remember your Old Testament history. Joshua is leading the chosen people out of Egypt, and they are fighting their way to the promised land. During their campaign in Canaan, they arrive at the imposing city of Jericho. For six days they march circles around the city, without engaging battle. On the seventh day, they blow their war horns and the city walls crumble.—Victory for Joshua and his people. 

Six days of marching; about six weeks of fasting. If we are disposed, grace will bring down the walls of our sins. For on the seventh day—Easter—Christ will break through the walls of the tomb, and, like a New Joshua (their names are the same) lead us to victory.  

These ashes are your uniform; the sign that you are in the legion of Christ’s Church. God grant us to see aright, and to serve him, not half-heartedly, but entirely.  

Homilies & Sermons