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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

“Everything you ever wanted to know about Lent, but were afraid to ask.”

Note: This is a little 'blurb' I send out to my parishioners at the beginning of the Season of Lent to explain why we do what we do. I would love it if you wrote in and told me what you do in your parish that is different - or if your understanding of why we do what we do is different.

There are forty days and forty nights of the Season of Lent,beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Day. If you count up the number of days in that period of time, however, you will note that the total is 48. That’s because Sundays are always considered a celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and are, therefore, not counted.

Even so, we suspend the use of the “Alleluia’s” in Lent. The children “buried” them under the carpet by the baptismal font on the Last Sunday of Epiphany, and they will be “resurrected” on Easter morning. (Watch out! The children will be listening. If they catch you saying ‘Alleluia’ in church, you will be “fined” and they win a prize!)

We will celebrate Eucharist “Facing Liturgical East”. This is a way to accentuate the transcendence (rather than the immanence) of God, and underscore our time in the wilderness of Lent.

We begin Sunday observations of Lent with the Great Litany, which is chanted in procession, emphasizing the pilgrim nature of our faith. We will process again on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

There are no shiny Eucharistic vessels or ornaments during Lent. Even the cross and Gospel book are veiled. The liturgical color for the season is purple, which points us to the Sovereignty of Jesus – a symbol of the supremacy of His sacrificial love for us.

The Exchange of Peace is moved to its historic place in the Eucharistic Prayer and the Announcements are made at the end of the Service. This is to underscore the solemnity of the Lenten Season.

The fourth Sunday in Lent is “Refreshment” or “Rose Sunday”. We will use rose colored vestments for that day.

Palm Sunday – the Sunday of Passion – is marked by our modern re-enactment of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We do this with Distribution of Palms which begins at 9:45 and a procession up Main Street, following a Jazz Band. The liturgical color for this day and all of Holy Week is a deep red. The mood suddenly changes when we return to the church and participate in a reading of the Passion of our Lord.

The most sacred part of Holy Week is the Triduum – the Three Holy Days – which begins with Maundy Thursday, with the traditional service of Foot Washing and the Agape Meal, a “Love Feast” that is a reflection of the Passover Meal observed by Jesus and his disciples. The altar is stripped and the church is left bare. A Night Watch is kept in the church.

Good Friday
is the most solemn day in the Christian calendar, the day when we remember the crucifixion of Jesus. The children gather at noon to walk the Stations of the Cross, while the adults gather with other Christians in
Chatham for a retelling of the Passion of Jesus. The evening provides a powerful opportunity to venerate the cross and process it into the darkness of the night, hopeful of the promise of resurrection.

The Great Vigil of Easter is our most ancient liturgy which we observe on Saturday evening. Our salvation story is told in the midst of the drama of the lighting of the new fire, the paschal candle, baptism and the first Eucharist. The liturgical color is white. It is high liturgical drama of the first order, and not to be missed! A champagne and chocolate covered strawberry reception caps the evening.

Easter Day is a glorious celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. The Special music and vocal offerings deepen the spiritual experience of this day. The children love to “unbury” the “Alleluia’s” and hunt for hidden Easter eggs.

In preparation for the "Easter Experience,” it is a long-standing Christian tradition to practice some form of Lenten discipline as we deepen our understanding of our “discipleship.” This can take the form of regular fasting (usually on Friday) of meals (imbibing only liquids) from sun up to sun down. Some prefer to eliminate meat from their diet one day per week. Others may “give up” chocolate, alcohol, nicotine or other favorite substances.

Fasting and other forms of sacrifice are not simply “what we do” in Lent. These are intentional acts which bring us into solidarity with those who suffer. In so doing, we open our minds and expand our hearts to greater compassion – a mark of a follower of Jesus.

Lenten Discipline also includes regular times of prayer and meditation, physical exercise, and devotional reading. It may also include challenging yourself to take on a new task, learn a new skill, or improve an old one. Lent is also a time for private confession. Please call to schedule an appointment

The point is that these “forty days and nights” are a time to discipline one’s self to be a better disciple. It’s a time which draws attention in a purposeful way to the things we do and helps us to examine why it is we do them. It is an opportunity to deepen your spirituality and strengthen your faith.


it's margaret said...

Elizabeth--I am pushing one thing this year.... Lent is learning how to live a Resurrection life.... We used to call Advent the "little Lent." --So, now I am reversing it and calling Lent the "Big Advent" --a time of anticipation and preparation....

Also, on Wednesday nite of Holy Week, we have a "Lord's Feast" --a liturgy of washing the feet/dinner which is quite informal with a shared cup of wine and bread AFTER dinner; and the children have the opportunity to wash each others' feet and the feet of their parents, etc... gets quite wonderfully messy and wet... and a little wild....

Muthah+ said...

Dealing with Luthterans who do not have the explicit liturgical regimen that we do makes for some interesting approaches. We are using a new hymnal (read prayer bk)so I am introducing some new things.

I am emphasising the baptimal promises through Lent. It seems to go with the readings. On Lent I we are doing a reaffirmation of Baptismal promises and then doing the Thanksgiving for Baptism which is new to this new hymnal.

I am doing the old Catholic understanding of Maudy Thursday as centered on the Eucharist. It is still too cold in upstate NY for them to part with their sox for footwashing.