What is Lent?

Lent is a season of preparation for Easter. It consiss of forty days plus the six Sundays observed as a time of self examination and penitence. According to The Book of Common Prayer,

The first Christians observed the great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a seasom of penitence and fasting. The season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

During Lent, the worship services take on a simpler tone, appropriate to this season. Instead of colored vestments we wear simple undyed cloth. The word "Alleluia" is not used in the words of the liturgy or hymns. These practices help worshippers to mark this season of renewal as a special time in the church year.

Observing Lent

It is customary to make the season of Lent by giving up some things and taking on others. Both mark the season as a holy time of preparation. During Lent one might give up desserts, meat, or alcohol. In most cases, giving up something for Lent can be made more meaningful by using the money or time for another purpose. Meal times on fast days could be spent in prayer. If you were to abstain from eating meat during Lent, any money saved could be donated to a mission organization dedicated to ending world hunger worldwide. One might add disciplines such as daily Bible reading, fasting on Fridays, times of prayer, of taking a course of study related to some aspect of Christian Spirituality. Lent is an especially apropriate time for the Sacrament of Confession (remember the classic Anglican adage, "All may, none must, some should.) Note that the seasonof Lent is forty days plus the six Sundays. All Sundays are celebrations of Jesus' resurrection and are always an appropriate day to lessen the restrictions of Lent.

Special Days and Services

Shrove Tuesday
This is last day prior to the beginning of Lent. The day is named for the "shriving" or confessing of sins that was traditional before beginning Lent. This day is also know as "Fat Tuesday" because it was a time for eating the things from which one would abstain during Lent. Pancake suppers are traditional as they were a way of using up some of the ingredients not needed during Lent.

Ash Wednesday
The first day of Lent is marked with a special liturgy. The theme for the day is that we stand as sinners condemned to die, but for God's grace. This is symbolized by the imposition of ashes on the forehead, with the words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." In the Old Testament, ashes were a sign of penitence and mourning.

Ash Wednesday is one of the two days of special observance (the other being Good Friday) for which fasting is recommended. While this traditionaly refers to going without food for the entire day, this practice is not practical for everyone. Use your discretion in determining how you can best observe this day.

Stations of the Cross
These are depictions of 14 incidents in the account of Jesus' passion from his trial before Pilate to his being placed in the tomb. They are used for the service called the Way of the Cross, which visits each station in turn with a brief reading, response, collect and scriptural mediation. This is particularly appropriate for Good Friday and all Fridays in Lent.

Rose Sunday (or Refreshment Sunday)
Also known as mothering Sunday, or Laetare Sunday (meaning "rejoice"), the fourth Sunday of Lent is the traditional time to light them mood and relax the disciplines of the season. raditionall the priest wore special rose colored vestments, roses ornamented the altars, hymns sressed the theme of rejoicing and the people feasted on Simnel Cakes.

Holy Week

Holy Week celebrates the events of Jesus' final week in Jerusalem, culminating in his sacrifical death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead on Easter Morning. Services are vivid and dramatic, bringing the impact of these events in our present experience.

Palm Sunday
This last Sunday in Lent commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem with a blessing of palms, and a dramatic reading of the story of Jesus' "passiong" or suffering. Remaining palms are kept and used to make the Ash Wednesday ashes for the next year.

Maundy Thursday
The liturgy on this day recalls Jesus' Last Supper. The name comes from the Lating word Mandatum for "commandment," and refers to Jesus' words, "I give you a new commandment; they you love one another." The service includes foot washing following Jesus' example. At the conclusion of the service, the altar is stripped of all ornaments and the remaining consecrated bread and wine is place o the "Altar of Repose" in the Chapel which is decked out with flowers to evoke the Garden of Gethsemane.

Good Friday
This day recalls Jesus' atoning death. This is the second day of special observance for The Book of Common Prayer recommends fasting. There is no celebration of Communion from Maudy Thursday until the Easter Vigil on Saturday Evening. However, it is customary to distribute consecrated bread and wine blessed during the Maundy Thursday service.

The Easter Vigil
The most dramatic service of the year, the Easter Vigil begins in darkness on Saturday evening. the priest kindles the "new fire" from which the large "Paschal Candle" is lighted. The congregation listens to passages from the Old Testament, until the priest crise, "Alleluia, Chist is Risen!" The lights go on and the organ begins an Easter hymn to celebrate Christ's rising fron the darkness of the tomb. From early Christian centuries this was the traditional time of baptism--since it so dramatically expresses our fying and rising in Christ through the sacrament.




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