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Lent, the scrutinies, and our preparation to celebrate the joy of Easter

What are the scrutinies?

Lent is a penitential time as we prepare to celebrate the joy of Easter - 40 days in which we are called to soberly re-examine our lives and our relationship with Christ. The scrutinies are solemnly celebrated on Sundays during Lent.

A series of ancient rites called the Scrutinies are celebrated for the elect (Catechumens become ‘elect’ after the Rite of Election at the beginning of Lent. - RCIA) The elect are those who are seeking Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.

The scrutinies are solemnly celebrated at Mass on the three middle Sundays of Lent. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults explains: “The Scrutinies are meant to uncover and 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.”

The faithful are encouraged to join in the scrutinies and also benefit from them. They can also have a profound effect on fully initiated Catholics in the congregation who both pray for the elect and reflect with contrition on what they themselves have done and what they have failed to do. We are all in need of conversion throughout our lives, so we join the “elect” in scrutinizing our lives and pray for the grace to overcome the power of sin that infects our hearts. Such repentance is a necessary aspect of the Christian life. It is also essential prelude to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is particularly appropriate in the Lenten season. All parishes in our diocese offer confessions and penance services during this time. Please check the parish calendar for dates and locations. Our parish Lenten Penance Service is Thursday, March 8, at 7pm in the church.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” ( John 3:16)

That is what we are preparing ourselves to celebrate at Easter. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of Feasts’, the ‘Solemnity of Solemnities’..the mystery of the Resurrection in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy of old times until all is subjected to Him.” (CCC 1169)