Church Seasons / Lent


Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The season is a period of preparation for celebrating Easter. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. The First Sunday describes Jesus’ temptation by Satan; and the Sixth Sunday (Passion/Palm Sunday), Christ’s triumphal sentry into Jerusalem and his subsequent passion and death. Because Sundays are always little Easters, the penitential spirit of Lent should be tempered with joyful expectation of the Resurrection.

The Great Three Days-sometimes called the Triduum or Pasch-from sunset on Holy Thursday through sunset Easter Day are the climax of Lent (and of the whole Christian year) and a bridge into the Easter Season. These days proclaim the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. During these days, the community journeys with Jesus from the upper room, to the cross, to the tomb, and to the garden. They should be seen as a great unified service beginning with a service of Holy Communion on Holy Thursday and concluding with the services of Easter Day. These services may be connected with a prayer vigil lasting from Holy Thursday evening (or Good Friday) until the first service of Easter and may be accompanied by fasting.

Somber colors such as purple or ash gray and rough textured cloth are most appropriate for paraments, stoles, and banners. Unbleached muslin cloth with red stitching is also appropriate. Remove all shiny objects from the worship area. Some may wish to omit flowers. Other visuals may include a large rough cross (possibly made from the trunk of the Chrismon tree) or a veil over the sanctuary cross.

Other visuals for Holy Week may include red paraments, stoles, and banners, and symbols such as perfume, coins, a whip, a crown of thorns, a torn garment, nails, a spear, a sponge, or a broken reed. On Good Friday and Holy Saturday the church may be stripped bare of visuals.

(used by permission from The United Methodist Book of Worship, 1992) For more information and resources go to the UM website and search for Lent: