The Aura of Lent
Lent is upon us which is a beautiful time of year. I use Lent to reorder my life. I don’t care for New Years’ Resolutions; I believe in Lenten resolutions. Utilizing this time to straighten out my sinful habits is a part of my regular Lenten routine.
One of my other favorite parts of Lent is the devotion to the Stations of the Cross. The Way of the Cross is a powerful and beautiful journey with Jesus to the Cross. It provides an opportunity to meditate on His victory and imitate His offering of love to the Father. Particularly I am fond of St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s Way of the Cross (this is probably due to the fact that we used this edition at my parish growing up). There are lines from this edition that have stuck with me. Every station ends with the prayer, “I love you Jesus my love, grant that I may love you always and then do with me what you will.”
Lent is a time of fasting and abstinence and here is a reminder about the Lenten rules. The norms on fasting (Ash Wednesday & Good Friday) are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat (Ash Wednesday and all Fridays) are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.
Another Lenten theme is restraint, especially during the Liturgy. Mass during Lent isn’t as grand as it normally is. We don’t sing or recite the Glory to God, or the Alleluia at Mass during Lent, and children aren’t baptized during Mass.
The instructions for Mass have this interesting piece: “During Lent, it is not permitted to decorate the altar with flowers, and the use of musical instruments is allowed only so as to support the singing.” Part of the restraint that is expressed during Lent is the lack of decoration with flowers. It is not the most enjoyable aspect of my day to explain to a bride why we don’t have flowers near the altar during Lent. Although sometimes, they don’t mind because it is one less thing to worry about.
The other part of the Lenten instruction discusses music. The only time that we can use musical instruments is to support singing. Musical preludes, interludes, and postludes aren’t appropriate during Lent. We are used to having instrumental music at many of our Masses surrounding the distribution of Holy Communion, but during Lent the Church prefers silence to instrumental music.
In particular, St. Joseph normally has an instrumental when the distribution of Holy Communion begins. In attempting to follow the Church’s instructions, Adam Fahncke wants to try something new this year which I am very excited about. During Holy Communion, we will be singing the Communion Antiphon. In our hymnal the Communion Antiphons follow the Gospel reading for the day, but you probably won’t need to pick up the hymnal. The antiphon will be sung like the responsorial psalm. The cantor will sing the antiphon followed by the congregation. Then the cantor will sing a verse and the congregation will sing the antiphon. Hopefully after singing the antiphon a time or two the congregation will remember it so that they can sing as they process forward for Holy Communion. When the Communion Antiphon is done, we will sing a communion hymn.
One of the beautiful things about the Communion Antiphons during Lent is that they are tied to the Gospel reading. For example, during the Fifth Sunday of Lent when the Gospel is the Raising of Lazarus, the antiphon is “Everyone who lives and believes in me will not die forever, says the Lord.” Even if the Communion Antiphons aren’t sung during the Mass you attend, you can still use the antiphons to prayerfully prepare for Holy Communion.
Lent is a wonderful time to draw us back to Lord. Through prayer, fasting and almsgiving we are enveloped into the life of Jesus Christ.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Sean Wilson