LENT will soon be upon us. It begins with Ash Wednesday on March 06, because this year, we have a “late” Easter, which will be April 21. Lent is 40 days over 6 weeks. Sundays in Lent are not part of Lent. Sundays are celebrations of the death and resurrection of Jesus, thus automatically days of joy, and by definition, cannot be considered days of fasting.
The English word Lent is a shortened form of the Old English word lencten, meaning \”Spring season.\” The first day of Spring, March 21, always occurs during Lent, no matter what day Easter is. As Christians, every year we celebrate the dying and rising of Jesus. From March 21 onward, known as the “vernal equinox,” the hours of daylight start exceeding the hours of darkness. It is a time when, in many climates, plants and animals begin awakening from their winter hibernation, in the same pattern as the dying and rising of Jesus. This natural cycle reminds us of our immortality: if we die, we are but sleeping, destined to rise again with Jesus. This point is most poignantly made in the Sacrament of Baptism, wherein we die to sin in the water and are raised up with Jesus as we come up from it. Nowadays we mostly baptize by affusion (that is, pouring water on the candidate instead of full immersion) but the dying-and-rising motif still permeates the Baptismal liturgy and that of Easter Vigil. I hope one day we can celebrate a Baptism at Easter Vigil. If you know someone who would like to be baptized at Easter Vigil this year, please let me know.
The three Lenten disciplines are: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lenten prayer is an opportunity to deepen your relationship with God. Prayer can be a set routine, like reading or saying the Daily Offices, also known as “The Liturgy of the Hours.” Or it can be unstructured, praising, thanking, or petitioning God in your own way at times and occasions of your soul’s choosing. But the most important part of the “prayer” component of Lent is contemplative: inward reflection on who you are, your moral compass, where you are going, and better alternatives for your future. Fasting means abstaining from something that’s part of your regular routine for a time certain. Traditionally, we manifest this by “giving up” something during Lent, often food or drink. That coordinates nicely with almsgiving since the money we save not purchasing that from which we are fasting can be placed in the collection plate. However, this is too narrow a view for me. We can also fast from other things, in particular, cease doing stuff that is to our detriment. We can fast from such things as selfishness, pride, greed, anger, envy, gluttony, laziness, and lust, known as “the seven deadly sins, \”and use the time, energy and resources we put into those things to enhance our lives and those of others in more constructive ways.
Here at Saint Cecilia’s, our Lenten observance will begin with Ash Wednesday. We will have two services that day, a Low Mass at 11:00 AM and a Sung Mass with a full choir at 7:00 PM that will feature “Wash Me Thoroughly” by S. S. Wesley. Additionally, we will provide ashes to the public in or annual “Ashes to Go” at the corner of Palm Canyon and Tahquitz Canyon Way. Our Sunday Masses will continue as usual, but they will take on a more subdued tone. We will have silent processions at the beginning and end of Mass, much of our music will be in minor keys, no Glory to God (except for Maundy Thursday), and no Alleluias. The color of the day will be purple, except the Fourth Sunday of Advent, when rose will be used, and Holy Week, which has its own color scheme.
On Friday nights, starting March 8, and continuing through April 12, we will have Stations of the Cross at 6:00 PM. This service traces the journey of Jesus from Pilate’s Court to the place of his execution and burial. The service lasts about a half hour. We will be using a different form of this ancient and meaningful service each week. Weekday Masses at 12:15 PM will continue as usual.
Lent will conclude with Holy Week, including our Palm Sunday procession, Low Masses on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Maundy Thursday with foot-washing, Good Friday Stations of the Cross and Good Friday liturgy, Easter Vigil, and finally, Easter Sunday, April 21, when we will celebrate most jubilantly.
Have a Blessed Lent!