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Liturgy Spots: First Sunday of Lent, Election and Symbols - 7th February 2016
First Sunday of Lent
The first section of the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass – the part that comes after our “It is right and just” and before the “Holy, holy” – is called the Preface. The Preface can sometimes be over before we are aware of it which is a pity because it helps connect us to the feast or season being celebrated.
The Missal provides Prefaces for each of the six Sundays of Lent which reinforce the Gospel reading of the day. For example, on this first Sunday, the Gospel is about the Lord being led into the wilderness for forty days and tempted by the devil. The Preface takes this up and proclaims:
By abstaining forty long days from earthly food,
he consecrated through his fast the pattern of our Lenten observance
and, by overturning all the snares of the ancient serpent,
taught us to cast out the leaven of malice,
so that, celebrating worthily the Paschal Mystery,
we might pass over at last to the eternal paschal feast.
Rite of Election
On this first Sunday of Lent, those catechumens (people who are not already baptised) who will be initiated into the Church at the Easter Vigil celebrate a ceremony called the Rite of Election or Enrolment of Names. This afternoon, catechumens in dioceses in all parts of Australia and around the world will gather in their cathedral churches with godparents, sponsors, families and friends, parish clergy and RCIA teams to celebrate this special liturgy under the leadership of the bishop.
The Rite of Election celebrates publicly the fact that these people have progressed on their faith journey and have opened their hearts to Christ in a spirit of faith and love. They are “elected” for initiation into the Church, not because they have earned it, but because God has chosen them. From this point on they are known as “the elect”.
We pray for all those who will take this next step on their journey to initiation at the Easter ceremonies and for those who are journeying with them.
Symbols of Lent
In the Jewish scriptures, ashes often suggest humility and human insignificance, as in the familiar “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. Ashes were also used as a purification offering to ritually cleanse the unclean and also to express mourning and sorrow. We continue the Jewish understanding of ashes as a symbol of humility, purification and sorrow when we are marked with ashes on the first day of Lent as a sign of our willingness to cleanse our heart through prayer, fasting and self-denial.
The cross is the primary symbol of Christianity and a central object in Catholic liturgy. The cross represents victory over death and salvation from sin. During Lent the cross leads the procession on Palm Sunday, is the focus of Stations of the Cross, and is venerated on Good Friday.
Purple or violet is the prescribed liturgical colour for Lent. Purple is associated with mourning and so anticipates the pain and suffering of the crucifixion. Because it is the royal colour, it also celebrates Christ’s resurrection and sovereignty. Purple vestments and hangings in Lent visually evoke a mood of simplicity and austerity, so added symbols are unnecessary and distracting. The colour is the symbol.