The fourth Sunday in Lent in the Western tradition is special. It’s known by several names: it’s been called The Sunday of the Five Loaves from the Gospel passage for the day (John 6:1-14); it’s also been called Rose Sunday because the clerical and alter vestments change color from violet to rose — but why the change in color in the first place? Another name for this Sunday gives us a clue: Laetare Sunday (Laetare meaning: Rejoice).
The Introit or entrance chant for this Sunday begins in Latin: Laetare Jerusalem, et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam. (Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her). This chant is taken from Isaiah 66:10. The call to rejoice here in the middle of this season of repentance is meant as an encouragement to us, a comforting reminder of the tenderness, the nurturing, even the motherliness of God. Continue reading →
The annual cycle of seasons — of solstices and equinoxes, of agricultural death and rebirth, of the changing raiment of the trees, and of the migrations of animals — is an inescapable feature of existing on the planet Earth. Even at the equator where the Earth’s tilt makes astronomical changes like solar solstices or changing constellations not as noticeable, there are still yearly cycles of rainy and dry seasons brought about by shifting global weather patterns. From the dawn of humanity to the present, it’s safe to say that all human life is profoundly shaped by the repeating time-scale of the Year. Continue reading →
Sackville College, East Grinstead – where John Mason Neale lived and did most of his writing.
The Church year is centered around Jesus and the redemptive story of his life, death, and resurrection. The Scriptures read in the Liturgy, the various prayers, and also the songs and hymns that are sung all correspond to the seasons of the year, and the seasons themselves correspond to events or periods in the life of Jesus. The season of Lent takes the Church with Jesus both into the desert where he fasted for forty days and also on his last journey to Jerusalem (and ultimately to the cross and his glorious resurrection). Several themes and lessons of the Lenten season are emphasized in the Liturgy, but two of the most prominent are repentance and spiritual struggle. Continue reading →
After observing Lent, and especially the last days of Holy Week, it’s absolutely amazing how exciting the arrival of Easter is. At The Advent, we had a service every night of Holy Week, including a vigil at 11:30 Saturday night in order to celebrate the Resurrection literally first thing in the morning. By the time of our vigil, the mounting anticipation was intense. I was weary from fasting and annoyed at my own shortcomings that the fast had revealed. The powerful Good Friday service the day before had forced me to experience our Lord’s death in new ways. The fact that Saturday itself is part of Holy Week — the fact that I had to observe it too, to think about Jesus’ cold body lying in the dark on a slab, me hiding uncomfortably with the scattered disciples — made me want to jump ahead to the resurrection I knew about from history. The emotions that kept bubbling up didn’t match my circumstances, like when a sad dream affects the tone of the next day. Continue reading →
I’m a big picture kind of person. The reason that thinking in terms of the Grand Narrative of the world is so helpful to me is that it helps me contextualize that which is more immediate – that which is in front of me. I don’t do well with the “why’s?” of what’s in front of me if I don’t have something bigger and prior to which I can appeal. When dealing with issues of devotion, habit, rhythm, and worship, the bigger and prior something to which I appeal is the Church. The Church from its earliest days appealed to the bigger and prior traditions of Temple and Synagogue worship in Israel. With the new guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church also began to practice wise new traditions including gathering corporately to worship every Lord’s Day (Sunday), receiving communion together, and annually celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Continue reading →