On a liturgical note: Lent 2019

By Canon Philip Gillespie

The lengthening of the days ushers in one of the ‘purple times’ of the year – the Season of Lent, where the purple of the vestments is a sign of the expectation and the preparation needed for our great feast, the Triduum which celebrates the suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord.

On the Epiphany (6 January), the Church offered a proclamation in the liturgy which – while apparently superfluous now that we can look up all the dates of the Christian feasts at the click of a button or swipe of a screen – centres the whole of our Christian life and ‘the rhythm of times and seasons’ on the Easter celebration:

Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of His return. Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: His Last Supper, His Crucifixion and Death, His Burial, and His Rising, celebrated between the evening of the 18th day of April and the evening of the 20th day of April, Easter Sunday being on the 21st day of April.

Each Easter—as on each Sunday—the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death. From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

The period of Lent is a time of seeking, an intense 40-day period of searching for that purity of heart and, therefore, purity of living which will enable us to both experience more deeply and express more lovingly the centrality of Christ in our lives. The advice given through the Gospel writer Matthew on Ash Wednesday is this: don’t do any of this seeking and searching in too public a fashion as if to attract attention; it is to be done ‘in secret’, because goodness is its own reward.

In January we made new year resolutions, which may or may not remain intact. The arrival of the ‘lengthening of days’, the springtime of faith, invites us to renew that resolve by giving something up or, perhaps more positively, taking upon ourselves some act of prayerful growth and charitable care of others so that ‘the rhythm of times and seasons’ is marked not merely by the changing of months or the passing of calendar days but by a seeking and searching and deepening of the one gift which St Paul says last forever: love.