Lent

Notes on the Liturgy: The English word Lent means spring, which gives a clear indication of
when Lent occurs (in the spring) but very little about its significance for Christian people.

Lent (both theologically and spiritually) is all about Easter. Specifically, Lent is the time in
which Christians prepare for the Resurrection of Jesus as Christ and Lord. It is a time in
which we make room in our lives for this great gift. In its earliest days, Lent was kept as a fast
for the Christian Passover, the two days that included the Saturday night before Easter
Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. (Our own modern worship continues to reflect the
significance of these two occasions with what we know as the Easter Vigil on Saturday night
as well as Easter Sunday services.)

Nonetheless, the central defining point of Lent stems from its use as a time to prepare
candidates for Holy Baptism. (Baptism is most appropriately celebrated at the Easter Vigil, a
feast that St. Martin’s keeps faithfully.) Therefore, the character of Lent is serious, reflective,
purposeful, filled with the overarching anticipation reaching an important goal. From these
Lenten principles come some Lenten practices, such as fasting, confession, repentance,
study, disciplined renewal.

Starting as a one or two day fast just prior to the Vigil night and the Sunday celebration of the
Resurrection, by the mid-fourth century Lent had been extended to forty days. This number
contains the biblical allusions to the forty years that Israel spent in the wilderness before
entering the promised land and to the forty days that our Lord spent in the wilderness, fasting
and being tempted by Satan. [It is important to note that the forty days of Lent never include
Sundays, as Sundays are always celebrations, dedicated to Christ’s rising.] Yet, in our
secular culture, the hard truth is that if we did not mark Lent on Sundays, very few of us
would ever experience Lent or its important impact.

We observe Lent in many ways in our parish community, and there are several important
changes to note that are specifically intended both to remind and assist us in our Lenten
pilgrimage. For instance–

acknowledge how we stand with God, our neighbor, and ourselves.
acknowledge how we stand with God, our neighbor, and ourselves.

On the succeeding Sunday in Lent, our liturgies will begin with the offering of the
Supplication (BCP., p. 154f) as an entrance rite, leading directly into the Penitential Order
(that is, the recitation of the Ten Commandments Litany and confession).

Changes in the Church Space: Lent brings a change in the way the church, itself, looks.
Sparseness is reflected, a sign that we are called to get back to our spiritual and theological
basics, making room for what is truly important: namely, God and the life God gives us.
Specifically, there will be no flowers during Lent. The Paschal Candle has been removed, to
reappear at the Easter Vigil. The altar is unadorned, save for a fair linen. The clergy
vestments, too, are simple.

Changes in the Liturgy:

THE OPENING SENTENCES change for Lent: Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins…

NO ALLELUIA will be said or sung throughout the season. (Remember how we buried the
Alleluia in the font on the Last Sunday of Epiphany?)

We will use the RITE ONE Eucharist both at 8:00 and 10:30. We do this for several reasons.
First, it has been a custom of this parish from time to time to do so. Second, increasing
numbers of new Episcopalians are less familiar with this part of the Prayer Book tradition,
and we do not want to neglect it. Third, the theological perspective of Rite One is atonement
oriented: namely, it focuses upon Christ’s death making us one with God. This is a very
appropriate tone for the Lenten season.

By long-standing Christian tradition, during Lent the church offers specific opportunities to
deepen faith and stimulate reflection and devotion.