Pope’s Lenten virtue
Two of the major themes in the season of Lent, which the Christians are piously observing these days as preparation for the Holy Week leading up to Easter, are renunciation and prayer. Like the other world religions, Christianity has a strong tradition of renunciation by men and women who renounce worldly attachments to spend the rest of their lives praying in monasteries.
The practice of renunciation in Christianity is founded both on the life of Jesus Christ and his teachings. As Saint Paul tells us, “…Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus Who, being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he emptied himself by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. …He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross” (Philippians, 2: 5-8).
In his teachings Jesus placed before his disciples certain conditions if they wished to be his followers, saying, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”(Matthew 16: 24-26).
While one finds a whole tradition of renunciation exemplified by many saints who lived a life of austerity, it is worth looking at Pope Benedict XVI, who recently set a great model of humility and renunciation by stepping down as the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church to spend more time in silence and prayer.
His first renunciation came when he left his family and home at the age of 12 to serve God by joining the seminary to become a priest. There are millions of such young boys and girls who attempt to renounce the world though not all make it to priesthood or nunhood. But those who do are called constantly to a life of renunciation and prayer. This is all done out of complete free choice.
Pope Benedict chose to make known his second major step to renounce the Chair, in total freedom, two days before the beginning of the Lenten season. In addition to everything else, it sets the most worthy example not only before the Christians of the world but before all, small or big, rich or poor, saint or sinner, demonstrating the great value of renunciation to embrace a life of prayer. And that he did not proclaim it as an act of sacrifice, only further revealed his humility.
Father Dominic Emmanuel is the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church.