"Beloved searcher of hearts, Thou knowest the infirmities of men;
show pardoning grace to those who return to thee."
- Verse from Parce Domine
During important liturgical feasts and seasons, such as Lent, often times one may find it hard to express in words the sentiments the soul feels. How - during a time so sacred - can one even begin to describe what wells up in the heart? This poverty which strikes us is, in itself, a reminder of a necessary disposition during Lent: that even the penances and mortifications we desire to perform require complete reliance on the Lord for strength and perseverance. We can do nothing on our own.
The Lord often works together with His Bride the Church to takes care of His children. Holy Mother Church sees the poverty of Her little ones and provides for them in their need through the prayers of the Liturgy. For where Her child does not know what to say, She gives words; where there is yearning of the heart, She provides the supplication it wishes to express; where the child says, "I do not know how to pray as I ought," She says, "I shall provide prayers for you."
The prayers of Ash Wednesday give a prime example of Her maternal care:
"Hear us, O Lord, for Thy mercy is kind: look upon us, O Lord, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies. Save me, O God: for the waters are come in even unto my soul." - Antiphon before the blessings of ashses
"Grant, O Lord, to Thy faithful people, that they may undertake with fitting piety this period of fasting, and complete it with steadfast devotion." - Collect
Again, we can do nothing by our own accord. That is why Holy Mother Church begins our Lenten journey in the context of Mass where we receive the very Source of our strength, the Life of our soul, the Reason for our existence, and the Example of reparation. The final prayer over the people summarizes this reality: "Look graciously, O Lord, upon us who bow down before Thy Majesty: that we who have been refresehd by Thy Divine Gift may ever be sustained by Thy heavenly aid."
But just as our Lord leaves us not alone through His Spouse the Church, He also gives us His most Blessed Mother. Standing as an image of the Church, Our Lady will walk with us through this Lenten journey. As she stood by the cross of her Son, so too will she stand next to us as we beseech God for His mercy and repent of our sins. She is there - we have only to remember her presence. Let us ask for her aid as we prepare for our salvation.