Ash Wednesday and Lent

Traditionally the 40 days before Easter were a time of preparation for those to be baptised and a time of penance for those who committed a public offence – culminating in the admission and re-admission into the full communion of the church at Easter.
Very early on, from about the 2nd century, this time of penance and preparation was extended to everybody, not just the catechumens and those who sinned publicly. It coincides with the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert – although Lent is longer than 40 days as Sundays always celebrate the Resurrection and are therefore not part of Lent.

There is every freedom to make the Season of Lent meaningful to individual circumstances, either through giving something up, take stock and make inventory of what is important or hindering in one’s life, or by adding something: a spiritual practice, a voluntary service or a beneficial habit. It does take about 6 weeks to form a habit, so Lent offers an annual opportunity to make changes in one’s life. Fasting days are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with the tradition to only have one full vegetarian meal and two smaller snacks on these days.

In our tradition Ash Wednesday serves as a reminder of the fragility of life, a memento mori. Through the imposition of Ashes we are told that we are bound to die and that our time on earth in our bodies is limited.

Great Post Ash Wednesday Post Repentance Ash In

The 4th Sunday of Lent is known as Laetare Sunday (Be joyful!) and is also celebrated as Mothering Sunday in this country. The liturgical colour rose (a mix of purple and white) demonstrates a tentative joy – half of Lent is over, we celebrate the mothering love of God and the love we received from our mothers and step into the more serious part of Lent following.

The last two weeks of Lent from the 5th Sunday of Lent until Holy Saturday are known as Passiontide and are traditionally kept as the most solemn season of Lent. When you enter church you will immediately notice the covered crosses and statues – they are impossible to miss and might even look a bit sinister.

To cover crosses at a time when the Passion and cross of Christ is the focus of attention is somewhat counterintuitive. Originally only precious items like gold or gems were supposed to be hidden, as this felt a bit inappropriate whilst remembering the crucifixion. I very much like the practice for another reason: the point of hiding is to focus the intention. To hide something with purple veils is so blatantly obvious that it immediately raises attention – and an involuntary curiosity about what is hidden underneath. To unveil the cross on Good Friday and the statues during the Easter Vigil helps us to see afresh what we are completely used to seeing all the time.

Holy Week and the Triduum

Having prepared during the penitential season of Lent for the Easter Feast, the last three days before Easter are very special: they are known as the Sacred Triduum (the three Holy Days). In these three days the church worships continuously (at least in theory).

The service starts on Maundy Thursday evening with the celebration of the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist and the re-enacting of the serving nature of Christ the King in the washing of the disciples’ feet. After staying with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (answering Jesus’ question: Could you not watch with me for one hour?) we interrupt the service and have a rest. 

However, the service of Maundy Thursday has no proper ending; it continues on Good Friday as we join with Our Lord in the hour of his crucifixion and death. As our gathering on Good Friday is a continuation of the service begun the night before, it has neither a formal beginning nor a formal ending. 

Holy Saturday (which is the Saturday in Holy Week, the day before Easter, Easter Saturday is Saturday in Easter Week) not much happens – the tabernacle is empty, no candles are lit in church. Our Lord has died, ‘he descended into hell’, we wait. Possibly Holy Saturday is even more meaningful this year with the experience of seemingly endless waiting in lockdown than in pre-covid years.

The Easter Vigil is the final part of the Sacred Triduum. Again, we begin without formally beginning to worship – after having rested from worshipping we continue the main service of the Christian year begun three days ago. 

This service combines the ‘waiting’ of the Church in Vigil, the greeting of the Risen Christ, our rising to new life in him in Baptism, our answer to Christ’s call through Confirmation and the first Eucharist of Easter concluding the worship of the past three days. Following this ‘worship marathon’ all of us deserve something to make the celebration tangible: usually the Easter Vigil would be followed by a hearty breakfast (or some celebratory beverage).

There will be no Easter Vigil proper at St Andrew’s this year but everybody is invited to join at St Mary de Castro. However, the Easter Day Service at St Andrew’s will have elements of the Easter Vigil.

Resurrection 1917 Eric Gill 1882-1940 Transferred from the Library 1979 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P08068

I am delighted that Bishop Christopher Boyle is going to be with us on Easter Day, celebrating baptisms and confirmations on the day it is most appropriate to do so.

Service Times for Lent (all at St Andrew’s unless specifically mentioned)

  • Every Sunday, 10.30am Parish Mass
  • Every Wednesday, 12.30pm Selected Stations of the Cross followed by said Mass at 12.45
  • Saturday 19th March: 6.30pm Filipino Chaplaincy Mass

Events

  • Friday 8th April, 8pm: Leicestershire Chorale Concert
  • Saturday 9th April, 7.30pm: Fosse Singers Concert
  • Church Cleaning and Decoration (ALL WELCOME – there will be cake!): 2nd April, 16th April 9.15am to 11.15am

Service Times for Holy Week & Easter

  • Holy Wednesday, 13th April, 12.30pm: Stations of the Cross & Mass
  • Maundy Thursday, 14th April 7pm: Mass of the Last Supper followed by the Watch of the Passion until 10pm
  • Good Friday, 15th April, 2pm: Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
  • Holy Saturday, 7.30pm: Easter Vigil at St Mary de Castro Church (LE1 5WH, NOT at St Andrew’s)
  • Easter Sunday, 17th April, 10.30am: Solemn Pontifical Mass of the Resurrection of Our Lord with Baptisms and Confirmations

Easter Lilies & Choir on Easter Day

If you would like to make a special donation towards Easter Lilies (perhaps in memory of someone?) this would be most gratefully received. We will also have professional singers again on Easter Day. Would you be able to help with the cost? Please let Fr Johannes know if you want to pledge a specific amount.