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The First Sunday in Lent


   O Lord God, You led Your ancient people through the wilderness and brought         them to the promised land. Guide the people of Your Church that following our Savior we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



An Overview

The season of Lent draws its shape from Christ's temptation in the wilderness. When the Church still spoke Latin, we called the season Quadragesima, which means 40 days (hence the previous Sundays of Quinquagesima, Sexagesima, and Septuagesima). For whatever reason, the season came to be called "Lent" among English Speaking Christians, which comes from the middle English lencten, which just means Springtime.

These forty days serve as the "spring" of our hope. Just like springtime in northern Wyoming, it's not always sunny days and flowers. It's often freezing temperatures, flu-bugs, and increased workloads. But the days are getting longer. We're exposed to more sunshine. As the world grow brighter and brighter in anticipation of Summer, the Church grows dimmer and dimmer in anticipation of Good Friday.

We begin this forty day journey by hearing of the first temptation into Sin, and end it with hearing about how Christ overcame all temptations to sin.



Artwork: Christ in the Wilderness, Moretto da Brescia (Allesandro Bonvicino). Italian, ca 1515. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Old Testament

Genesis 3:1-21

  • The serpent was crafty, but this isn't a snake as we think of it today. Before he was cursed, he didn't crawl on his belly (3:14). In the book of Revelation, he is called a "dragon," "ancient serpent," and "Satan."

  • St Paul tells us that it was not Adam, but the woman who was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14). This is clearly true from the Genesis account, but we should ask where Adam was during this time of temptation. If he was present, why was he silent?

  • We still today called nakedness "shame." Without sin there is no shame because there is no guilt.

  • Verse 15 is called "The First Gospel" by many Christian writers. It is the first promise of the messiah. Around the time Christ was born, some Aramaic translations of Genesis included "so shall it be in the time of the King Messiah" in this verse.

  • All males are cursed with labor and toil

  • All females are cursed with the suffering of knowing that childbirth brings forth sinners who are doomed to die

  • All men are cursed with original sin.

  • Verse 20: Eve (Chavah) means life. In the Greek Old Testament she is named Zoe (life).

  • Verse 21: We can rightly assume that God sacrificed the animals to make clothes for Adam and Eve

Translation Notes

  • Verse 15: A mistranslation in the Latin speaking world rendered this verse "she shall crush your head," leaving to a false belief that Mary would somehow trample the serpent. It is clear in the Hebrew bible that the Seed is the one who will do the crushing.

The Epistle

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

  • Verse 2 is the source of one of our Lenten banners

  • Paul quotes Isaiah 49:8. The full weight of this prophecy includes a restoration of Israel. Truly today is the day of salvation, not because of military strength, but because the Corinthians have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Paul lists what "our" ministry includes (verses 3-10). This is a reminder that we as Christians are called to suffer, to put to death our passions, especially during this time of Lent.

Translation Notes

  • Verse 1: Vain, Greek: κενὸν (ken-ON) "emptiness." We usually think of vanity as self-service, but it is true emptiness.

The Holy Gospel

Matthew 4:1-11

  • This happens immediately after Christ is baptized by John in the Jordan

  • Verse 2: after fasting forty days he was hungry and the tempter came to Him. Compare with Mark 1:13 "being tempted for forty days," and Luke 4:2 "tempted for forty days...ate nothing." When we understand these three acounts as a whole, we see that Jesus was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, He ate nothing, and while He was tempted the entire time, the devil waited until the end of the Forty Days to give him the difficult temptations. 

  • All three temptations of Christ are framed in a tempt for Jesus to "prove" who He is, "If you are the Son of God..."

  • The First temptation attacks the belly.

  • The Second temptation is an attack on the mind and is the same trick that Satan used in the Garden "did God really say?"

  • The Third temptation is an attack on the ego.

  • Once Jesus says "be gone" Satan cannot help but obey the Creator of the Universe.

  • After Jesus' temptation, angels ministered to Him. We, who are joined in Christ's death and resurrection by our Baptism (Romans 6) should expect nothing less of our Father' angels. Note: Luke does not include the angels coming to minister to Jesus, but includes an angel helping Jesus in 22:43

Translation Notes

  • Devil διαβόλου (dia-BAH-lou). The same root word as Spanish "diablo." In Greek, this word means "to throw about." The Devil is a chaos maker. Compare this to "Satan" which is from a Hebrew word meaning "tempter," (Mark 1:12).

Poetry Used in the Liturgy of Invocabit

  • Psalm 91 - This is the Psalm that the devil quoted to try to tempt Jesus into breaking the first commandment. We sing it on this first Sunday in Lent, not only to remind ourselves that God does send angels to protect us, but also to show the devil and the unbelieving world that the Church is the one who has the authority to quote scripture, not him.

  • Psalm 32- One of the (many) psalms that all Christians should learn by heart. We confess that forgiveness is a gift that comes from God, and that the life of the forgiven sees the law not as a curse, but as a bit and a bridle that shows us where to go.

Artwork: Adam and Eve, seated on a rock, with a serpent coiled around a tree at left and a lion and a lamb at right, Various Artists/Makers. 1803-1809. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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