Lent in Brief - 2nd March 2014

Wednesday 5th March is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Here is a brief outline of the season.

The name 'Lent' comes from an old English word meaning 'to lengthen'. It was used to describe the 6-week period leading to Easter because in the northern hemisphere it coincided with the time when the short winter days were gradually growing longer.

The General Norms of the Liturgical Year and the Calendar describes Lent this way:
“Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. For the Lenten liturgy disposes both catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery: catechumens, through the several stages of Christian initiation; the faithful, through reminders of their own baptism and through penitential practices.” (27)

For those who will be baptised at Easter, Lent is a period of intense preparation called the “Period of Purification and Enlightenment”.

• The first four weeks take their direction from the readings and the rites related to the Catechumenate (RCIA).
• On the fifth Sunday of Lent the focus shifts to Christ's passion.
• Holy Week runs from Passion/Palm Sunday until the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.
• The Triduum runs from the evening of Holy Thursday until the evening of Easter Sunday.

1st Sunday: The temptations in the desert
2nd Sunday: The Transfiguration
3rd Sunday: The woman at the well
4th Sunday: The man born blind
5th Sunday: The raising of Lazarus
6th Sunday: The Passion

• restraint and simplicity, uncluttered and austere
• flowers used sparingly, vestments plain, decorations understated,
• music kept to a minimum – no Gloria or Alleluias; instruments used only to accompany the singing of the assembly.
• Greater use of silence in the liturgy


• a symbol of humility, purification and sorrow
• a sign of willingness to cleanse our heart through prayer, fasting and self-denial.

• no other sign so clearly symbolises Christianity
• a symbol of victory over death and salvation from sin

• Purple or violet is the prescribed liturgical colour for Lent.
• It should be a sombre blue-violet in contrast to the lighter purple of Advent.

Elizabeth Harrington