Prayer, Penance, And Love
Lent is the time of preparation for Easter, the greatest feast of the Church. During Lent, we are asked to focus on changing our lives through prayer, penance, and love. In doing these, we try to become more like Christ in his love for God and others by his dying and rising to new life. The figures in the readings for this season are Jesus, the disciples, and prophets. It is also the time when the catechumens, with the prayerful support of the parish community, complete their final preparation for the sacraments of initiation.
The figures in the readings for this season are Jesus, the disciples, and prophets. Both the baptismal and penitential elements have prominence in the scripture selections.
The Lenten Season begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Thursday of Holy Week up to the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. From the time of the early Church, the forty days of Lent are counted from the First Sunday of Lent until Holy Thursday.
The term Lent comes from a Middle English word that means springtime. Like the season of spring, Lent is a time of renewal.
The liturgy during Lent helps prepare both catechumens and those who are baptized to celebrate the paschal mystery. Those who are catechumens journey though the several stages of Christian initiation. The people who are already baptized experience reminders of their own baptism and through penitential practices.
As stated in The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the season of Lent has a twofold character, that is, its baptismal character and its penitential character.
In the fourth and fifth centuries the Church developed liturgies to assist people who wanted to become Christians. The final forty days of this faith journey became what is now known as Lent. Lent is the time for the catechumens to continue their preparation for Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. For those who are already baptized, it is a time to reaffirm the role of Baptism in their everyday lives.
One’s Baptism is not an event that happened long ago. Baptism changes us so radically that we are different, “marked ” forever. Baptism gives us a spiritual mark. Once we are baptized, the promises of our baptism and the life of Jesus we find in the gospels should influence our decisions for the rest of our lives.
Themes in Prayer and Scripture
On the Sundays during Lent, the scripture readings present the prophets’ call to repentance. Over the course of three years the readings provide a presentation of the total mystery of salvation. In order to recall the mystery of Christian initiation, gospel texts that were once read to the catechumens to prepare them for baptism are part of the Liturgy of the Word so that all members of the Church, as well as those who will be baptized, will be enriched.
The gospel readings for the First and Second Sundays of Lent recount the Temptation and the Transfiguration of the Lord, with the accounts from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
On the next three Sundays, the gospels about the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus are found in Cycle A. Because of the importance in process of Christian initiation, these selections may also be proclaimed in Year B and Year C, especially where there are candidates for baptism. Otherwise, in year B the gospels come from John’s text about Christ’s future glorification through his cross and resurrection. Year C offers Luke’s texts on conversion.
The Old Testament readings during Lent concern the history of salvation. The selections from the New Testament complement the gospel and Old Testament readings and provide a connection between them.
Holy Week, which extends from Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) until Holy Saturday, includes the last days of Lent and the first days of the Easter Triduum. The week begins with a procession that recalls the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. The gospels during this week recount what Jesus said and did during the week before his death.
At the chrism Mass on the morning of Holy Thursday the bishop of each diocese, concelebrating with the priests from the diocese, blesses the oils and consecrates the chrism that will be used for the celebration of the sacraments during the coming year.
The color used during Lent is violet or purple, which symbolizes the efforts for penance and reflection.
A Symbol for Lent
The cross, the instrument of the suffering, crucifixion and death of Our Lord, symbolizes Jesus’ victory over death and the hope of our salvation. It reminds us that we are called by Jesus to love God, our neighbors, and ourselves, and that we should improve those things that help us do this and change those things that get in the way.