By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God,
may we walk eagerly
in that same charity with which, out of love for the world,
your Son handed himself over to death.
This prayer, from the ancient Mozarabic (used in parts of Spain) Missal, is really a reflection on one Latin word: Caritas. Caritas is variously translated into English as charity or love.
Jesus uses the word caritas because his love is a love like no other. He is the author of love, and he is love. His love is the love which gives unto death. This caritas is the model for all love and purpose of all life: to be conformed to the image and likeness of God, that we might love others as he has loved us.
To be one with Christ in this love is to walk eagerly with him in the same caritas that led him to the cross out of love for us. The First Letter of John, which probably inspired today's collect, says it best:
"In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. 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." (1 John 4: 10-13)
It is this kind of love which leaves the world speechless. The kind of love which led St. Maximilian Kolbe to offer his life in trade for a husband and father in a Nazi death camp. The kind of love which led St. Gianna Beretta to offer her life to save the life of her child. This kind of love led Mother Teresa to the streets of Calcutta and the martyrs to accept their deaths.
But this kind of love is lived out in our daily lives, as well: in the thousands of opportunities we have to choose the self-sacrificing love which flows from the wood of the cross and not from our own selfish desires. St. Theresa of Lisieux understood this best when she once wrote:
"When things that are irritable or disagreeable befall me, instead of assuming an air of sadness, I respond by a smile. At first I was not always successful, but now it is a habit which I am very happy to have acquired."
Let us then walk eagerly with all the saints the road to Calvary which our Savior trod, the road of love which brings life and perfect Paschal joy.
Msgr. James P. Moroney, presently professor of liturgy at St. John's Seminary, Brighton becomes the 20th rector there on July 1, 2012. This is the fifth of a series of reflections on the collects of the Lenten season which continues throughout this holy season.