You may recall, last year during Lent we emphasized the baptismal characteristics of the season. The Ceremonial of Bishops instructs, “Through its twofold theme of repentance and baptism, the season of Lent disposes both the catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery. Catechumens are led to the sacraments of initiation by means of the rite of election, the scrutinies, and catechesis. The faithful,…….. listening more intently to the word of God and devoting themselves to prayer, are prepared through a spirit of repentance to renew their baptismal promises.” The renewal of baptismal promises takes place at the Easter Vigil or at Mass on Easter Sunday morning, followed by the sprinkling of holy water. Our journey through Lent is meant to strengthen our faith so that we can make this renewal of promises with confidence.
For this special season, I wanted to draw your attention to several liturgical details that might help our disposition towards this end.
Lent is a season to restrain from complexity and extra ornamentation, to remind us that we only need to be reliant on God. To that end, you’ll notice that the music we use at Mass is more straightforward and focused on the voice, without as much instrumentation. Instruments are only used in the accompaniment of singing, and we cease singing the Gloria and the Alleluia. The idea isn’t that we sing less, but we come to realize the only instrument we really need to praise God is our own voice. Actually, making a resolution to participate in the Mass more fully by singing might make a good Lenten discipline. We fast from the things that are nice but not necessary, while we feast on the things that truly sustain us.
There are other ways we “de-ornament” or liturgies. The bells that are typically rung during the Eucharistic Prayer are put away during Lent, and will appear again on Holy Thursday, after Lent is concluded (Lent officially ends when the evening liturgy on Holy Thursday begins). Around the altar, we typically use a pair of white-bleached beeswax candles, but during Lent we will use unbleached candles. These look a bit unfinished, and remind us where we are on our spiritual journey.
Finally, you’ll notice around the perimeter of the church several signs with Lenten words such as, “Repent,” in English and Spanish. These signs were made by a parishioner, Adrian Despres, from reclaimed tobacco barn wood. The lettering was carefully done by a local artisan, Kerr Pelto. This all wasn’t entirely planned, but I find it a beautiful symbol that we are decorating the church for Lent with material that is re-purposed. In its previous iteration, the wood served well, but times change. Now the same wood has found new purpose. I think this Lent we could all take some time to re-evaluate our purpose as individuals and as a community, basically, what God is calling us to. Just like with the wood, God doesn’t simply discard us, but is always calling to us to renew our purpose.
Let us root this Lent in prayer, take seriously the opportunity to purge our lives of those things that don’t sustain, and consider how we might show care and concern for others in a more intentional way.
Submit your liturgical questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
– Jeff Rice, Pastoral Associate of Liturgy & Music