The Lenten Season
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The Liturgy in Lent

The liturgy in Lent has as its central concern the preparation of the church for the main event of Easter: Christian initiation. Lent itself came into being as the time of final preparation for those chosen for Holy Baptism, at a time when all Baptisms were done at Easter. The candidates, who had been in an intense period of training for Christian living—lasting three years in most cases—were solemnly admitted as candidates at the beginning of Lent. They, their sponsors, and the whole church spent that period in prayer and fasting, additional instruction, and performing works of mercy in preparation for the Baptisms at the Easter Vigil. It was also a period in which those who had been excommunicated for serious sin did penance in order to be restored to communion at Easter.

 

This remained the pattern for many centuries. Once most people in Christendom were baptized, however, and the Baptism of infants became the norm, such an extended period of instruction began to fade. Nevertheless, the season of Lent had become ingrained, and it persisted. Shorn of its original focus, it became a time for the members of the church to renew their commitment to Christ as they anticipated the great feast at Easter.

 

Many of the liturgical customs of Lent stem from those earlier times and can best be understood in that light. Some customs, in fact, need that understanding, or else they will be contradictory to the central meaning of Lent and Easter. This is because many of the customs, having lost their original purpose, were distorted.

Many of the liturgical customs of Lent stem from those earlier times and can best be understood in that light. Some customs, in fact, need that understanding, or else they will be contradictory to the central meaning of Lent and Easter. This is because many of the customs, having lost their original purpose, were distorted.

A few Lenten customs have distorted Christian faith and living, because they so easily play into the hands of popular misconceptions which dominate Western society and religion. Those misconceptions include individualistic and often nostalgic piety, sentimentality, and, in this country, a do-it-yourself mentality borrowed in religion from American culture. The effect of all this on Lent has been unfortunate. It has produced an attitude of seeking to carry out the Lenten obligations as personal religious exercises with little relationship to the larger Christian community; of greater concern for one’s personal salvation than with ministry to others; of attempting to make up for past failures with extra-religious activities; and an over-emphasis on activities and services geared primarily to the production of religious feelings rather than growth in knowledge of God and the deepening of our reliance on divine grace. This lent the pastoral staff has chosen to focus on our participation within the liturgy. At the time of Communion, we are invited into oneness as an assembly. The Body of Christ, the everything we take and eat we are asked to become. To help is the music of the Taize community has been chosen to lift our minds into fully being present to God has made himself available to us in a simple piece of bread. The old saying, "I can't walk and chew gum at the same time" is just that! An Old Saying. We here at St. Luke's are beautifully reminded by God that today at this moment, God is doing something new. SO why get stuck in a saying that holds us back from being fully present in the most solemn moment of our Sunday worship. The liturgy most splendidly invites us, by its very nature, to fully participate throughout the liturgy, but most importantly currently. Throughout this penitential season, we will make room for you to quietly reflect on the mystery you have just witnessed and engaged in fully. After everyone has received communion there will be a sung meditation. We invite you at this time to have a conversation with God. Allow his love to rain down into your soul. Our Easter will be more authentically holy if we all enter more fully into this Lenten experience here at St. Luke's in this way.

 

The liturgies of Lent in The Book of Common Prayer which is the center of our Lenten observance are the means of correcting such distortions. They can, when understood and used, rescue us from individualistic piety, from sentimentality, and from the futility of attempting to save ourselves. They will inform and enrich our prayer, fasting, and works of mercy. They will aid us in deepening our experience of the saving acts of God in the past and thereby strengthen our faith, enabling us to recognize the actions of God in our world, our culture, and our lives. Christian community; of greater concern for one’s personal salvation than with ministry to others; of attempting to make up for past failures with extra-religious activities; and an over-emphasis on activities and services geared primarily to the production of religious feelings rather than growth in knowledge of God and the deepening of our reliance on divine grace.

 

The liturgies of Lent in The Book of Common Prayer which is the center of our Lenten observance are the means of correcting such distortions. They can, when understood and used, rescue us from individualistic piety, from sentimentality, and from the futility of attempting to save ourselves. They will inform and enrich our prayer, fasting, and works of mercy. They will aid us in deepening our experience of the saving acts of God in the past and thereby strengthen our faith, enabling us to recognize the actions of God in our world, our culture, and our lives.

 

Above all, a serious and committed participation in the liturgies of Lent will enable us to discover anew the meaning of Baptism and to renew—and have renewed in us—what God accomplished in us when we were baptized.