Concerning the Season of Lent

CONCERNING THE SEASON OF LENT

Lent is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “Spring.” It is also a derivative of the old English word “lencten,” which also means “spring.” Since the 4th century this season has been devoted to Christian growth through discipline and penitence. Some people resent Lent’s coming. But most people every year look forward to Lent as a time of spiritual discipline and growth.

 

Lent is the season of the church year devoted to the special consideration of our Savior’s Passion and the events which brought about His crucifixion and death. Originally the 40 hours between the death and the resurrection of our Lord were observed as a period of fasting and mourning. Later the hours were lengthened to days and their number set at 40 days in length.

 

The 40 days of Lent correspond to Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness. The date of Lent is determined by the date of Easter. In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea said that “Easter should be observed on the first Sunday following the 14th day of the Paschal (New) moon.” The latest that Lent can begin is March 10th and that will happen again in 2038. The earliest Lent can begin is February 5th and that happened last in 1818 and will not occur again until after the 20th century.

 

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and is observed by many as a day of feasting and merry-making. The French call it “Mardi Gras,” the Germans call it “Fasching.” The wearing of sackcloth and ashes is a custom going back to the Old Testament. Many Christians observe the custom on Ash Wednesday, using ashes of the previous year’s Palm Sunday palms.

 

The dominant purpose of the Lenten Season is to direct the heart and the minds of the worshipers to Christ, who was lifted up so that He might draw all mankind unto Himself. We begin Lent with Ash Wednesday, but we close it with Easter. In the beginning God made man out of the dust of the earth. In Christ, He makes us New creatures, resurrects us from our dust and ashes. We have hope because we trust Him who thought so highly of us that He sent His Son to save us. Christ came to share His life with all people. That’s our purpose too. We can bring beauty out of ashes, life out of earth… In Christ Jesus!

 

CONCERNING HOLY WEEK

More than a remembrance… the experience of Holy Week and Easter actually offers the greatest gifts of God – life and salvation – to the faithful who relive these saving events.

 

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate our Lord’s entry into the city of Jerusalem with cheers and the waving of palms. Palm branches were an ancient symbol of victory and were used by the disciples as Jesus entered into Jerusalem. “Hosanna” is the Hebrew expression “Lord, save us!” that was shouted in solemn procession in the ancient Jewish festival of Tabernacles, where it turns into a shout of jubilation with thoughts that the Lord really will appear to save us. So it was that in Jesus, God came to save us. This is what the chanting crowds recognized on Palm Sunday.

 

The Triduum  or “three days” is the Latin name which includes the three 24 hour periods from the evening of Maundy Thursday through evening on Easter Sunday. Though we go and come from church and these worship services over three days, they are really parts of one, large worship experience.

 

On Maundy (Latin: “Mandatum”) Thursday , the day of the “new commandment” to love and serve one another, we hear Jesus speak of His death and His glorification. The Lord institutes the Lord’s Supper, the Church’s joyful Eucharistic (a Greek word meaning Thanksgiving) celebration of the Lamb of God’s paschal (Hebrew: pesah or pesach: meaning Passover) sacrifice.

 

The day of Jesus’ death we call Good Friday . Christians understand that God took the terrible events of this day and made them work for the good of all humankind, turning this into a truly good Friday. Linguists suggest that “Good Friday” may be a form of “God’s Friday,” much as the old greeting “God be with ye” has become “Good-bye.”

 

At the first worship service of Easter, Saturday Evening Easter Vigil , worshipers move from darkness to light. They begin in evening darkness, or at twilight for a service involving a dozen Scripture readings that review the history of salvation from Creation through the resurrection of our Lord. It begins with the striking of “new fire” (often outdoors) with which to light the new Paschal or Christ Candle. Then they light their candles from the Paschal Candle symbolizing the return of the Light of the World, our Lord, to life and to the Church. New Christian converts in the earliest centuries were trained and tested during Lent and finally baptized at the Easter Vigil. The days after Easter were the time for them to explore the meaning of their new life in Christ and the significance of the mysteries of Baptism and Holy Communion, of which they were now partakers. The baptism of children and adults at the Vigil is a wonderfully tangible symbol of Easter for each Christian. By baptism we are buried with Christ and raised with Him to new life. Even though this service is optional, the Easter Vigil is being celebrated in more and more congregations on the eve of Easter, reinstating the most ancient celebration of the Church as it was observed in the earliest centuries.

 

Easter Sunday  is the earliest Christian festival, celebrating our Lord’s resurrection from the grave in triumph over sin, death and the devil. The festival of Easter was first mentioned by name in 130 A.D. The season of Easter lasts 50 days from Easter Sunday to the day of Pentecost. The Easter celebration continues throughout each week of the Church Year, for every Sunday is a “little Easter.” “He is Risen!” and the reply, “He is Risen, Indeed!” are the most ancient – yet always new – shouts of Christian people at Easter. “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today…” is the same shout in the form of the well known Easter hymn, a Latin carol from the 14th century, which was set in English by Charles Wesley in the 18th century. White is the liturgical color for Easter, although gold may accompany white as the color for Easter Sunday and the following 7 weeks of Easter. One other symbol I always wondered about was the Easter egg. An egg contains the new life of a chick inside of it, and its yoke is a symbol of the eternally rising sun.



Lenten & Easter Blessings to you all!
Mark A. Lohmeyer
Minister of Music