The Season of Lent
The season of Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and self-examination in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord at Easter. It is a period of 40 days — like the flood of Genesis, Moses’ sojourn at Mount Sinai, Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb, Jonah’s call to Ninevah to repent and Jesus’ time of testing in the wilderness. (The Sundays in Lent are not counted in this reckoning of the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter, as every Lord’s Day is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.)
In the early church, Lent was a time of preparation for the celebration of baptism at the Easter Vigil. In many communities of faith it remains a time to equip and nurture candidates for baptism and confirmation and to reflect deeply on the theme of baptismal discipleship.
The Paschal mystery
An excerpt from the Companion to the Book of Common Worship (Geneva Press, 2003 110-111)
What we hear during Lent is the power and possibility of the paschal mystery, and that the way of the cross, the way to Easter, is through death. To appropriate the new life that is beyond the power of death means we must die with Christ who was raised for us. To live for Christ, we must die with him. New life requires a daily surrendering of the old life, letting go of the present order, so that we may embrace the new humanity. “I die every day!” asserts Paul (1 Corinthians 15:31). Resurrection necessitates death as a preceding act. The church’s peculiar Lenten claim is that in dying we live, that all who are baptized into Christ are baptized into his death. To be raised with Christ means one must also die with Christ. In order to embrace the resurrection, we must experience the passion of Jesus. The way of the cross, the way to Easter, is through death of the “old self.” In dying, we live.
Therefore, at the beginning of Lent, we are reminded that our possessions, our rulers, our empires, our projects, our families and even our lives do not last forever. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). The liturgies throughout Lent try to pry loose our fingers, one by one, from presumed securities and plunge us into unknown baptismal waters, waters that turn out to be not only our death tomb but surprisingly our womb of life. Rather than falling back into nothingness, we fall back on everlasting arms. Death? How can we fear what we have already undergone in baptism?
It is the power of the resurrection on the horizon ahead that draws us into repentance toward the cross and tomb. Through the intervention of God’s gracious resurrection, lifelong changes in our values and behavior become possible. By turning from the end of the “old self” in us, Lenten repentance makes it possible for us to affirm joyfully, “Death is no more!” and to aim toward the landscape of the new age. Faithfully adhering to the Lenten journey of “prayer, fasting and almsgiving” leads to the destination of Easter.
During the final week, Holy Week, we hear the fullness of Christ’s passion, his death, and resurrection. From Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and on to the Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday), all of Holy Week focuses on the passion. As his followers, we travel Christ’s path of servanthood through the Lord’s Supper and the suffering of the cross toward the glory of Easter, all of which underscores the inseparable link between the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Lectionary readings for Lent
Read the Revised Common Lectionary Scripture lessons for the First Sunday in Lent:
Resources for Lent
The Office of Theology and Worship has provided this collection of worship resources for Lent, including an Ash Wednesday service, a service of preparation for Holy Communion based on the Beatitudes, daily Scripture readings (two lectionary options provided) and Eucharistic prayers based on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the season.
Find more Lent resources
Lenten worship ideas
Explore the traditional symbols of Lent and consider using them in worship in connection with the lectionary readings. Nail sins to a wooden cross and flower over them on Easter.
Ash Wednesday service
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday as a day of mourning for our sin and the sin of all humanity before God, a recognition of our mortality save for the grace of God and a request that the Lord remember our creation and breathe new life into our burned-out, dusty lives once more.
This is a service for the imposition of ashes and the remembrance of baptism based on the sermon’s assurance that though we are dust, we are baptized dust, and that makes all the difference.
A Service with the Reading of the Gospel of Luke with Hymns
There is power in reading the entire gospel of Luke in one sitting. This service includes opening and closing prayers with optional hymns.
Prayers for Lent
These prayers might be used in a variety of settings: Opening Prayers (at the beginning of worship) or concluding collects (after the Prayers of the People); for church websites or newsletters; or in personal, small group or family devotion.
Confession and Pardon for the Season of Lent, Year A
The Calls to Confession and Declarations of Forgiveness are designed to be spoken at the baptismal font. The baptismal font should be open and in full view of the congregation. The font may already contain water, provided that there is sufficient room to add an ample amount of water at the Declaration of Forgiveness.
These materials are provided in two formats: version one demonstrates the progression of the texts through the season; in version two the materials are divided into individual weeks or services.
A Service of Preparation for Holy Communion
This service of preparation for Holy Communion, based on the Beatitudes and adapted from the 1946 Book of Common Worship, provides a way for congregations to prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in keeping with the principles of the Directory for Worship (Note especially the italicized sentences). It is especially appropriate for the Season of Lent and other penitential occasions. The section from the Beatitudes (following the sermon) might be excerpted for personal or small group use.
Eucharistic prayers for Lent
These brief Eucharistic prayers are drawn from the themes and images of the Revised Common Lectionary texts for the first five Sundays in Lent. This format for prayer is especially effective and appropriate for congregations celebrating the Lord’s Supper each Sunday in Lent.
Daily Readings for Lent
To promote people reading scripture during Lent, you may want to print out the following list of daily readings, which also include receiving daily readings by email, podcast, and iPhone.
This chart provides daily readings for Lent from both the Book of Common Worship Two-Year Daily Lectionary (Cycle One) and the Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings (Year C).
Daily Prayer During Holy Week
These daily services for Morning, Midday and Evening Prayer are designed particularly for Holy Week but are appropriate for use throughout the Season of Lent.
Find resources for the Season of Lent from Biblical and Confessional Resources for Worship.
Tread Lightly for Lent
The Lent 2017 daily reflection-action calendar, “Tread Lightly for Lent,” is available. The calendar was created by the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Environmental Ministries and Enough for Everyone offices.