Lent with the Book of Exodus (Ch 1)
February 14, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.
Lent 2024 with the Book of Exodus
Ash Wednesday (February 14) – Palm Sunday (March 24)
The liturgy of Lent often makes use of the Book of Exodus to provide a template to prepare to celebrate the Pasch of the Lord at Easter. The 40-year sojourn of the Israelites in the desert can serve to accompany believers during the 40 day Lenten fast. Exodus is divided into 40 chapters which allows for it to be read in its entirety from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday with commentary and a musical selection throughout the Lenten season. While certain aspects of the narrative may well disturb contemporary sensibilities, especially where non-violence is a paramount value, the following words of Fr. Bede Griffiths help to orient the reader and to approach the text at levels other than the historical:  
The story of the Exodus has at least three levels of meaning. There is first of all the literal and historical sense, the deliverance of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt, which is itself symbolic of the deliverance of all people from political, social, and economic bondage. There is secondly the moral sense of humankind’s separation from the world of sin, and its entry on the path of righteousness, when it receives the ten commandments of the law. Finally, there is the mystical sense of the passage from this world to the next, from the world of appearances to the world of real being, from the light of this world to the divine darkness where human beings meet God. 
N.B.  The translation of Scripture is from the World English Bible for which there are no copyright restrictions.
Exodus 1 (Ash Wednesday)

Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, who came into Egypt (every man and his household came with Jacob): Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the souls who came out of Jacob’s body were seventy souls, and Joseph was in Egypt already. Joseph died, as did all his brothers, and all that generation. The children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who didn’t know Joseph. He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let’s deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it happen that when any war breaks out, they also join themselves to our enemies and fight against us, and escape out of the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. They built storage cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out. They started to dread the children of Israel. The Egyptians ruthlessly made the children of Israel serve, and they made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and in brick, and in all kinds of service in the field, all their service, in which they ruthlessly made them serve.

The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah, and he said, “When you perform the duty of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birth stool, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and didn’t do what the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the baby boys alive. The king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said to them, “Why have you done this thing and saved the boys alive?”

The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women aren’t like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.”

God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied, and grew very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “You shall cast every son who is born into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.”


We have been led out of Egypt where we were serving the devil as a pharaoh, where we were doing works of clay amid earthly desires, and we were laboring much in them. For Christ cried out to us, as if we were making bricks, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened.” Led out of here, we were led over through baptism as through the Red Sea—red for this reason, because consecrated by the blood of Christ—when all our enemies who were assailing us were dead, that is, when our sins have been wiped out. (Augustine of Hippo)
I have already lived through many paschs, which was the fruit of a long life. But now I desire a purer pasch: to depart from this Egypt, the heavy and dark Egypt of this life, and to be freed from the clay and bricks that held us in bondage and to pass over to the land of promise. (Gregory Nazianzen)
When someone asks you why you fast, you should not answer: because of the Passover, or because of the Cross. Neither of these is the reason for our fasting. We fast because of our sins, since we are preparing to approach the sacred mysteries. Moreover, the Christian Passover is a time for neither fasting nor mourning, but for great joy, since the Cross destroyed sin and made expiation for the whole world. It reconciled ancient enmities and opened the gates of heaven. It made friends of those who had been filled with hatred, restoring them to the citizenship of heaven. Through the Cross our human nature has been set at the right hand of the throne of God, and we have been granted countless good things besides. Therefore we must not give way to mourning or sadness; we must rejoice greatly instead over all these blessings. (John Chrysostom)
Musical Selection
Oh, freedom, Oh, freedom, Oh freedom over me. And before I'll be a slave I'll be buried in my grave And go home to my Lord and be free. 
No more weepin, (don't you know), no more weepin, no more weepin over me. And before I'll be a slave I'll be buried in my grave And go home to my Lord and be free. 
Oh freedom, Oh, freedom, Oh, freedom, Oh freedom over me. 
And before I'll be a slave I'll be buried in my grave And go home to my Lord and be free. And before I'll be a slave I'll be buried in my grave And go home to my Lord and be free.
Gracious and merciful God,
you look with love upon a sinful people
and desire only their return to you.
We beg of you the grace to live this holy season,
to persevere in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
By the discipline of Lent
purify our hearts of all pretension,
bring us back to you,
and make the whole Church ready
to celebrate the mysteries of Easter.
Grant this through Christ, our liberator from sin,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
holy and mighty God for ever and ever. Amen. 

(Collects are taken from the 1998 translation of the Sacramentary by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy).