This month we begin our Lenten journey with the Ash Wednesday liturgy on Wednesday, March 6 at 7:30 PM. If you haven’t participated in an Ash Wednesday service, please consider joining us. For me, it is one of the most powerful services of the year. We begin the service with the words ―Have mercy on me, O Lord…‖ as we confess our sins and reflect on our mortality with the imposition of ashes and the reminder ―you are dust, and to dust you shall return.‖ This service marks the beginning of our journey to the cross and our preparation for Easter.
As we continue our Lenten journey, you will notice several changes to the music and liturgy during our Sunday morning services as well. As many of you know, each Sunday is a celebration of the res- urrection of Jesus, a ―mini-Easter,‖ that isn’t included in the 40 days of Lent. However, since we are not a monastic community and we are only able to gather once a week as a community, we choose to adopt certain Lenten disciplines on Sunday morning throughout the season. Beginning March 10th, we will make the following changes:
Prelude: The prelude may be more subdued during Lent than at other times. It will remain a time for worshippers to prepare themselves for worship. Some prefer to do this quietly, listening to the music and meditating on the texts for the day. Others prefer this time to be a time of fellowship, a very necessary component of communal worship. We ask, whatever your preference during this time, that consideration be made for those wishing to observe the time in quiet meditation and prayer.
Liturgical Setting: During Lent and Easter we return to Setting 4 in the ELW. I chose this setting because it is like an old friend. It is the setting we know best and the setting with which college stu- dents or former members (those who return on Easter) are most familiar. The Kyrie and Lamb of God settings are particularly reflective of this time of year.
Kyrie: Beginning on March 10 we return to the Kyrie or ―Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.‖ Use of the Kyrie continues the penitential cry we made on Ash Wednesday with our opening Psalm.
Hymn of Praise: ―Glory to God‖ and/or ―This is Feast‖ are omitted for the next few weeks and we reserve them for their joyous return on Easter when we proclaim: ―For the Lamb who was slain has begun his reign. Alleluia!‖
Alleluia: The Alleluia verse is omitted during Lent. We symbolically bury the Alleluia and await it’s return on Easter morning. Instead, this verse is replaced by the words of the Old Testament reading for Ash Wednesday, found in Joel 2: ―Return to the Lord, your God. For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.‖
Prayers of the church: We will be using the familiar sung refrain for the prayers: ―O Lord hear my prayer. When I call, answer me. Come and listen to me.‖
Offertory: We also return to an ―old friend‖ with our offertory ―Create in me a clean heart, O God…‖ As with the Verse, this text is from our Ash Wednesday liturgy, found in Psalm 51, the appointed Psalm for the day.
Beyond these Sunday morning changes, we’ll be holding weekly Lenten Vespers services on Wednes- day evenings at 7:30. These are short (30 minute) liturgies that begin with candle lighting, singing, and prayer. They’re a great way to pause during the chaos of the week and prepare ourselves for the Easter celebration that is to come.
I look forward to seeing all of you on Ash Wednesday and hearing your voices during this penitential season.
Soli Deo Gloria!