St. Gregory the Great: How Lent Leads Us toward Holiness

As the Easter festival approaches, we keep the greatest and most binding fast. The observation of it is imposed on all the faithful without exception. No one is so holy that he ought not to be holier, or so devout that he might not be more devout.

Who in the uncertainty of this life is either exempt from temptation or free from fault? Who would not wish for more virtue or less vice?

Adversity harms us, and prosperity spoils us. It is dangerous not to have what we want, and to have everything we want. There is a trap in the abundance of riches, and a trap in the straits of poverty; the one makes us proud, the other makes us complain. Health tries us, sickness tries us; the one makes us careless, the other sad. There is a trap in security and a trap in fear. It doesn’t matter whether the mind given over to earthly thoughts is taken up with pleasures or with cares—it is equally unhealthy to languish in empty delights or to labor under wracking anxiety.

Blessed is the mind, therefore, that passes the time of its pilgrimage in chaste sobriety, and does not linger in the things it has to walk through, so that—as a stranger rather than the owner of its earthly home—it does not lack human affections, and yet rests on the divine promises.

And no season, dear friends, requires and gives this fortitude more than Lent, when, by observing special strictness, we acquire a habit that we must persevere in.

— St. Gregory the Great


This excerpt is taken from Aquilina, Michael J. A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living. Charlotte, NC: Saint Benedict Press, 2010.

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