The forty days of Lent (not counting Sundays) commence with Ash Wednesday and conclude with the day before Easter. This span of days commemorate the time Jesus spent in the wilderness wrestling with temptation before beginning his ministry. Historically, Christians have used Lent as a season for confronting their own temptations and rededicating themselves to faithful discipleship. Lent contains some of the richest worship services of the Church year, including Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. These services give us opportunities to reflect deeply on the last week of Christ’s earthly life. Some ways of marking the solemn nature of the season include temporary changes to the worship liturgy and the “burying of the Alleluias” (the discontinuance of praise music) until the “resurrection of the Alleluias” on Easter Sunday.
The significance of Jesus’ final week (which we commemorate as Holy Week) is attested to by the fact that all four gospels devote so much space to the events of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his trial and crucifixion. Despite the prominence given to them, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are among the least attended services of the year. I encourage you to embrace the experience of Lent and Holy Week this year, both in communal worship (see the Lenten worship schedule below) and in private devotions. Those who share the trials and suffering of our Lord can most fully enter into the joy of Easter. And those who face their own shortcomings are best able to embrace the gift of grace.