The Threefold Cord: A Reflection for Lent

The Threefold Cord: A Reflection for Lent

By Father Anthony Giambrone, O.P.

A threefold cord is not easily broken, says Qoheleth, the sage (Eccl 4:12). The Lord thus wisely gives us a threefold program for our Lenten journey: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Old Testament knew all three practices, but only individually. It never held them together in this evangelical recipe. Jesus alone shows us how to bind the strong man fast (Mk 3:27).

Each of our three Lenten observances targets one of the set snares of the devil: pride of life, lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes. In prayer, we humble ourselves before our maker. By fasting, we tame the urges of our appetites. Almsgiving, finally, liberates us from avaricious desires.

Often the last of these, almsgiving, is the forgotten partner in our Lenten resolutions. Yet it is the most important of all, the final loop that binds the knot. Prayer alone might fail to wash away our sins. Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood (Is 1:15). Fasting, too, can leave God unmoved. After his sin with Bathsheba, David fasted seven days in vain (2 Sm 12:13-23). Works of mercy hold the key, for they animate our acts with love. Give alms and all will be clean for you, Jesus says (cf. Lk 11:41). Charity is the supernatural secret of this season.

Reflection based on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18