The season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday
and climaxing during Holy Week with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and concluding Saturday before Easter.
Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter Sunday, is the first day of the Season of Lent. Its name comes from the ancient practice of placing ashes on worshippers’ heads or foreheads, who have confessed their sins, as a sign of humility before God, a symbol of mourning and sorrow. The imposition of ashes has now been extended to include the whole congregation. Ashes became symbolic of that attitude of penitence. Ash Wednesday is a sombre day for reflection of our own faith.
Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that were placed before him. Christians today use this period of time for self examination, and repentance.
Lent has traditionally been marked by penitential prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Our churches still observe a schedule of fasting on certain days during Lent, especially the giving up of meat, alcohol, confectionery and other types of food. During the Season of Lent house meetings/courses are arranged for parishioners to participate in.
Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross refers to the liturgical practice of using various events in the final hours of Jesus’ life as a structure for prayer and meditation (also called Way of the Cross). These events encompass Jesus’ journey carrying his cross from the Hall of Pilate where he was condemned to death to the site of his execution on Golgotha (Calvary).
Passiontide starts the on the Sunday before Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday).
HOLY WEEK begins on Palm Sunday morning with the triumphal entry of Christ the King into Jerusalem. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week there are devotional addresses at each evening Mass.
On Maundy Thursday we commemorate the Institution of the Eucharist or Communion with a Sung High Mass. On this day in Jerusalem, Jesus, with his disciples, ate at the Last Supper where He commanded them to go out and “do this in remembrance of me”.
During the Mass, the celebrant washes 12 parishioners feet – a symbolic re-enactment of Jesus as He washed his disciples’ feet to illustrate humility and the spirit of servanthood, After Holy Communion as the Blessed Sacrament is sorrowfully carried in procession to the Altar of Repose, we follow Our Lord into the Garden of Gethsemane which the Altar represents. There remembering that his apostles could not keep awake while he suffered the pain and anguish of that night, we watch with him in prayer until midnight. At the end of the Mass, the altars are stripped, this symbolizes the abandonment of Jesus by his disciples and the stripping of Jesus by the soldiers prior to his crucifixion.
It is the one-day of the year when the Church does not celebrate Mass.The Liturgy of Good Friday is in three parts.
The Liturgy of the Word includes the singing of St John’s Passion, a long list of intercessions where we pray for the Church and the whole world. Next the Veneration of the Cross; a most moving ceremony where the cross is slowly unveiled as all approach and venerate. Finally communion using the reserved sacrament taken from the Altar of Repose.
The Easter Vigil begins in darkness, the Easter fire is blessed and the Paschal Candle, the great Easter candle lit, it is carried into the darkened church, the priest proclaiming the Light of Christ. The ceremony follows full of symbolism as the priest sings the great Easter Exsultet – the Easter proclamation before the Paschal Candle. The Baptismal Water is blessed in the Font with the Paschal Candle and we renew our Baptismal Promises. The Gloria is accompanied by the prolonged ringing of the bells, which have been silent since Maundy Thursday. The altar is prepared and the candles are lit for The First Mass of Easter.
Colours and Symbols of Lent
The colour used in the Church for most of Lent is purple. Purple symbolises both the pain and suffering leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus as well as the suffering of humanity and the world under sin.
The decorations for the church during Lent should reflect this mood of penitence and reflection. The use of any flowers is avoided in Lent. Also, there are no weddings and baptisms during Lent.
On the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Mid-Lent or Mothering Sunday) the liturgical colour changes to rose for the day.
For the last two weeks of Lent (Passiontide) all crosses, statues and adornments are covered with purple cloth, which intensifies our visual senses ready for the drama of Holy Week. This is a very ancient tradition of the Anglican Church. going back to medieval times. It was the general practice when the first Book of Common Prayer was published in 1549.
The colour changes to red for Maundy Thursday, a symbol of the disciples and through them the community of the church. The Institution of the Eucharist or Communion is observed on Maundy Thursday with a Sung High Mass, with the emphasis on the gathered community in the presence of Jesus the Christ.
Traditionally, the sanctuary colour of Good Friday is black, the only day of the Church Year that black is used, apart from some requiem masses. It symbolizes the darkness brought into the world by sin, it also symbolizes death. Black is always replaced by white before the ceremonies of Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.
The three days before Easter Sunday (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) are collectively known as The Triduum.