Voices ever ancient, ever new. Lent: Ash Wednesday

“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing...” (Matthew 6:3)

Saint Chromatius of Aquileia comments on this verse from today’s Gospel:

“Here the Lord is not speaking literally of the hands of the human body. Hands as such cannot know, having the senses neither of seeing nor or language. Rather, “on the right hand” means righteous deeds and “on the left” signifies sinful deeds or persons. Thus we read it written in the book of Kings that “hand” means people when it says, “Do I not have ten hands in Israel?” — that is, ten tribes of Israel. Therefore, there is no doubt that “on the right hand” means “the just” and “on the left” means “sinners,” according to what Solomon related: “The Lord acknowledges the divisions on the right; the perverse are those who are on the left.” The Lord makes very plain the meaning of this “right” and “left” in the Gospel when he declares that the just are to be placed at the right, the sinners on the left. If something is to be accomplished according to the teaching of the Lord, then the right hand of the just must not know what the left is doing. That is, in order to labor religiously and faithfully, we should not boast in the sight of sinners and unfaithful people.” (Tractate on Matthew, 26)

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to You Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning is now
and will be forever. Amen.