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Symbols of Lent and Easter Part III


ALMSGIVING - Almsgiving is a traditional practice during Lent. Almsgiving refers to giving money or goods to the needy. Jesus assumed that people would give alms because he told them to do it in secret. He did not say,” IF you give alms.” Rather He said, “WHEN you give alms.” St. Paul admonishes us to be a cheerful giver. St. James tells us that our faith is proved by our almsgiving to the needy. Almsgiving is not an option; it is a necessity for a person who claims to follow Jesus.

LORD, open my hand wider so that a bit more of my plenty may escape to help those more in need than I. Amen


SUNRISE - Pagan religions imagined the sun to be the greatest of gods. In symbolic religious painting and icons, the glory of God is often pictured as a sunrise. Sunrise is a symbol for Easter because tradition tells us that Jesus rose at dawn. Scripture tells us that, early in the morning, the faithful women went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. They found the tomb empty and ran to tell the apostles. A new day was dawning, not only actually but also figuratively. The world was about to experience the SONrise.

LORD, You rose at dawn. You are the dawn of my life. Be my light in the darkness. Be the Glory whom I venerate. You are the Son who gives me warmth all the days of my life. Amen.


HAMMER - A hammer is a symbol of the crucifixion of Christ because the Roman soldiers used a hammer to pound nails through the hands of the victims. A hammer and nails are often shown with a crown of thorns as a symbol of the Passion. While hammers are tools used for building and repairing, they can also be used for tearing down. “My strength is sufficient for you,” our Lord told St. Paul. May we tap into that strength.

LORD, You Who endured the hammering of nails into Your hands and feet, have mercy on me. I, too, feel pinned fast to this anguish and unable to escape. Give me Your strength to endure, Lord, and Your grace to emerge stronger from trials. Amen.


BLACK - Because the color black is traditionally associated with death and mourning, it is also associated with Lent. We remember the blackness of the night in the Garden of Gethsemane and how Jesus’s trial took place before dawn. Black recalls to us our own deaths and the deaths of others and helps us realize the value of life and of light.

LORD, You are the God of light and life. Dispel the darkness of sin with the light of Your grace. Redeem the darkness of death by the power of Your Resurrection. Let us live as people of light and joy. Amen.


PRISON - Authorities believe that Jesus was probably held in prison, at least for a short time, between the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and his appearance before Pilate. A prison is also a symbol of Lent because we are locked in the prison of sin. Jesus paid the ransom for us so that we can be released from this prison. This payment was affected on Calvary where Jesus died for our sins.

LORD, I am bound and many prisons: the prisons of sin, opinion, pride, the desire to be accepted. You, alone, Lord, can break the chains that hold me in these prisons. Grant me the grace to turn to you for release. Amen.


Resources from: Franciscan Penance Library

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