Keeping a Holy Lent at St. Dunstan’s
This past Wednesday, Christians around the world entered into the Holy Season of Lent, the period of forty days (not including Sundays) that the Church designates as preparation for the Feast of the Resurrection, Easter. In the Bible the number 40 holds special significance: it is understood symbolically as “a really long time,” and it often connotes a transitional, or in-between, period. Noah spent 40 days and nights on the ark; the People of Israel wandered for 40 years in the desert; and Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Christians observe Lent as an intentional period of reflection set apart to help deepen our relationships with God and one another.
The word “Lent” itself derives from the Old English lencten, which simply meant “spring,” or the “lengthening of days.” As the days grow warmer and the light grows longer in the weeks ahead, we will ready ourselves for the season of new life with great joy and anticipation. Many of us will do (or at least think about doing) yard work and other spring cleaning. So, too, in the Church: Lent offers us a set time to “get our house in order” – spiritually, relationally, and perhaps physically – in order to enter into the incomparable gift of the Resurrection more fully.
Each of us engages in this spring cleaning individually, in ways that make the most sense to us and to our particular season of life. While some folks choose to give something up for Lent, others prefer to take on a new practice; exercise, diet, daily prayer, journaling, and intentional work on finances or relationships all are common Lenten disciplines. Lent is also a time to consider going on retreat or making a private Confession (see “The Reconciliation of a Penitent” beginning on p. 447 in the Book of Common Prayer). Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me if you would like to discuss either of these possibilities further. Please also help yourself to a free copy of this year’s daily devotional, “Living Well Through Lent,” which is available on the table in Founders’ Hall.
Liturgically, Christian congregations tend to mark Lenten time by doing things a bit differently, as well. It is common practice, for example, not to say “Alleluia” (which means “Praise the Lord”) from Ash Wednesday until the Great Vigil of Easter, in recognition of the season’s more penitential tone. (I commend this brief article for an interesting discussion of the power of such language.) Here at St. Dunstan’s, we are trying a couple of liturgical shifts, with an eye toward helping to shape our worship experience during Lent:
In order to set a quieter, more contemplative tone, we are experimenting with not using the organ throughout Lent. If you were with us for one of our services on Ash Wednesday, you experienced for yourself the beauty of Joey’s offerings on piano. By relying more on piano, guitar, and other instruments during Lent, we hope to create a meditative feel to our worship.
- Similarly, we are trying to employ the screens in the chancel more creatively during Lent. Recently they have been used to project the entirety of the service (duplicating the paper bulletin), but several parishioners have commented that the use of the screens actually distracts from their ability to enter prayerfully into worship. The screens are an important resource, and we want to be good stewards of the investment that was made a few years ago. That said, how might they function in other ways? Throughout Lent, we will experiment with incorporating the screens organically into the service in ways that, hopefully, will support and not detract from the experience. Beginning this Sunday, arrive at St. Dunstan’s a few minutes early (which, in and of itself, is a good discipline!) for a time of centering before worship with projected prayer and images and soft music. Please let us know what you think!
I look forward to the season ahead with each of you, and I wish you a most holy and blessed Lent.