The term Ashen Triduum was coined by the founder of the Anawim community, Fr. Francis, he wrote Ashen Triduum is “a time after gathering of Ash Wednesday to come aside and withdraw for three days, to interpret how we are going to proceed for the journey ahead. The focus of these three days is essentially that of a retreat, a time to be alone with oneself before God, to be silent from within, and to take time for prayer and serious reflection.” It is in this view that I would like us to draw attention to the Thursday, Friday and Saturday after Ash Wednesday. The glamorous celebration of Ash Wednesday has an impact in us, it enkindles in us the desire to be reconciled with God, to enflesh sincerely the piety coupled with it and the charity demanded from us. It is but fitting then, to withdraw awhile and intently look at ourselves from the perspective of our relationship with God so that we will be equipped in our long journey of 40 days in the desert of lent. This journey will not be easy, it is gruesome, for we, too, will die eventually, as with our Jesus, to our very self.
We will find in our very selves deliberate, strong resistances to live out the spirit we have in the onset of lent, as a matter of fact, gradually we deviate and make excuses from it. As we “withdraw awhile” let us reflect a verse from the gospel for the First Sunday of Lent, from St. Luke 4:1-13, to help us be on-guard, like a soldier always ready for battle for our enemy is ready “…to await another opportunity.” (Lk. 4:13) The Lord Jesus having spent 40 days in the desert was tempted by the devil, failing, will come back at an opportune time to entice the Lord.
Reflecting on this verse, it led me to the temptations of Jesus, which will really happen to each one of us in this journey of 40 days, it dawned on me these events in the life of Jesus where the devil was most present- “the another opportunity”. How are we helped to face our spiritual and physical battle as we tread the path to holiness and wholeness?
- Jesus in the desert – The devil comes in and through the desert of our life; he comes when no one is around. When you feel alone, insecure, incomplete, down, feeling of emptiness and hopelessness and wanting. Jesus was alone in the desert. He was in want (he was hungry, Lk. 4:3). The devil uses the situation we are in to subtly allure us in the guise of our false needs, wants and should haves. It is also in these circumstances of life that our egoistic self comes in, manipulated by the enemy, that we begin to question or even despise God because of, either his seeming absence or apathy in our life.
The gift of wisdom will guide us to see what is of God and what will separate us from Him.
- Persecution during his ministry – It is true that in all the endeavors we have especially during this season, it all begun with good intentions. But as the wandering unfolds even the noblest intention will be put to the test, as Jesus was during his public ministry. The devil uses even the temple officials- the sanhedrins, priests and Pharisees to detest the good deeds He has done.
“*It is not without purpose that God strengthens (if we just beg him) our human weakness (during persecutions) with his gift of fortitude.”
- Agony in the Garden – When we are decisive and earnest in our loving and following of God, the devil rages desperately. He coils in anger and would deceive us through our weaknesses, limitations, sinfulness, unworthiness, the devil inflicts sorrow and fear in our heart as with the case of Jesus in the agony of the garden (Mk. 14:34) so that we would be overwhelmed and withdrew from our genuine resolution.
It is to this that we beg for the gift of counsel, which *sharpens our judgement. By its aid we perceive and choose the course of action that will be most conducive to God’s honor and our own spiritual good.
- Scourging at the pillar – Oftentimes, our desire for spiritual renewal and conversion will strip us of the very thing we are attached to, our self. Jesus when scourged, they tried to strip his dignity -“twisted some thorns into a crown, mocked and slapped his face” (Jn. 19:3) but failed to do so. Our faithfulness to our intentions lie not in the “manageable events” that we go through rather in the sagacity of the glory and victory that will be revealed in time.
The gift of understanding will help us perceive the process into which we are into, thus, we beg the Lord to graciously grant us the gift.
- Stations of the Cross – In our 40-day sojourn, there will be different aspects of our life that will be asked of us to give up. It may be our need to always defend ourselves or to give up our comfort zones so as to be able to avail oneself to the need of others. In moments where we come face to face with our own self, let us remember that the Lord must have been tempted all the way to Golgotha, always chided, but the Lord Jesus in his great love for us, continued on. The devil is the father of all lies, he never was, is and will be concerned of us.
Another gift is the fear of Lord which will be of use during this warfare against the devil’s malicious temptation in our faith. It is this gift that we hone our trust , love and reverence to God.
- Crucifixion – The presence of the devil must have been so tangible at this point in the experience of Jesus. It must have been so intertwined with how he felt and what he is experiencing, yet, he never gave up, on the account that “Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into his hands…” (Jn. 13:3) he knew what was his mission. Our piety during this season must be sincere and true, free from flair, free from frivolousness and hypocrisy. For the devil will not depart from us and will use our strengths as well as our weaknesses, to his own advantage and our failure.
Seek knowledge not from oneself but the knowledge that comes from God.
7. “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?”- Faith, hope and love remain, but the greatest of these, is love. Love is not faithfulness but steadfastness in the midst of darkness, trusting that even “darkness is light itself.”
The practice of the virtue of piety will anchor us in our relationship with God, even in the pit darkness.
*The Faith Explained [Third Edition] by Leo J. Trese