Lent celebrates Jesus' time in the wilderness

Published 5:22 am Monday, March 14, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
For Atmore's Liturgical churches – those that follow specific rites such as St. Robert Bellarmine and Trinity Episcopal – the 40 days before Easter is a solemn time.
According to Trinity's Rev. Sandra Mayer and Robert Bellarmine's Father Jan Zagorski, Lent, the English name for those 40 days, is symbolic of the 40 days that Christ spent suffering in the wild after his baptism.
Typically it is a time for doing for others, praying, fasting, abstinence and expressing repentance, but each of the churches in Atmore do things their own way.
Trinity Episcopal
For Mayer Lent is a time for reflection.
"People tend to give up something that means something, but it's also important to put something into your life that will stay with you past lent," Mayer said. "It's a time of prayer, meditation, fasting, good deeds, reading more; anything that brings you into a closer spiritual relationship with God. I like to go on the opportunity to put something into my life that will stay with me forever, as opposed to just giving something up."
In addition to a lifestyle change several changes are made with the way services are held.
"All the crosses are covered with purple, any other adornments in the church are usually covered as well," Mayer said.
The liturgy or rites also change for Lent.
"During Lent we usually use Rite One, which is the more penitent than Rite Two," Mayer said. "The prayers are more heavily penitent, there's a lot of emphasis on the Holy Eucharist (a sacrament renewing the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood), collection of alms (money for charity or tithes), and the prayers."
Rite One is more comparable to the Catholic rite, it is solemn and without 'hallelujahs'. Rite two is used for celebrations such as Christmas.
"On Easter we'll do Rite Two liturgy, hallelujahs will be added back to the liturgy and we go to white coverings on the crosses and adornments," Mayer said. "Purple is a penance color and we switch to white, which is a celebration color."
The color switch is to celebrate the Holy Resurrection.
"We are considered the resurrection church," she said.
Next Sunday begins Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday and ends the following Sunday with Easter.
"On Palm Sunday, we have the celebration of the palms, which recreates Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and the people laying down the Palms as he rode into the city," she said.
The church is having several other programs as well.
"For lent, we are having lenton supper and Bible study at 6 p.m. on the ninth and 16th of March," Mayer said. "We will have Monday through Thursday service at 6 p.m., that's a service where we will do foot washing to emphasize the servant nature of Jesus and Good Friday we have service beginning at 6 p.m. and Easter Sunday service is at 11 p.m..
St. Robert Bellarmine Church Parsonage
According to Zagorski, Lent is the Catholic version of the Baptist revival in some ways, but it is also a solemn occasion.
"Traditionally in the Catholic Church it's a time for alms giving, forgiveness, prayer and repentance," Zagorski said. "Also on every Friday during Lent we give up eating meat and we fast."
In the Catholic Church the alter is covered in purple for the same reason the Episcopal Church is decorated in purple, the difference is that holy statues are covered in white shrouds.
"They will remain covered until the Saturday before Easter Sunday," Zagorski said. "The Episcopal Church, of course, doesn't have any statues. They don't have as much of a concentration on Lent as we do; it's a little more solemn than theirs."
The Rites are also a little different.
"We use the Roman Rite," Zagorski said. "We have Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent. We have benediction and adoration during Lent. We've had a penitential service in which we invited Jim Holmes up, he's a former Baptist converted to Catholic, and he spoke of what the Eucharist means to him."
Holy Week is when the major differences between the Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church become most apparent.
"Next Sunday will be Palm Sunday," Zagorski explained. "Palm Sunday begins Holy Week for us. Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. We will have a procession with the blessing of the new palms. That will be at 11 a.m. on Sunday the 20th.
"On Tuesday we have the Chrism mass that's at Mobile and all the priests in the diocese come to take communion. When people are baptized they are anointed with sacred oils. All of the Catholic churches in the diocese send their oil stocks to the cathedral and they throw out their old oil and get the new oil that the bishops bless. It's also the time that all the priests in the diocese celebrate mass with the archbishop and they also renew their vows of celibacy and obedience and all Catholics are invited to attend the Chrism mass from all over the diocese."
Other events are planned for later that week.
"On Holy Thursday we have mass and that's when we have the washing of the feet," Zagorski continued. "Twelve parishioners are chosen from the congregation and the pastor or associate pastor washes their feet.
"Holy Thursday after mass we have the reposing of the Blessed Sacrament. It's not just bread and wine, but its Jesus' flesh and blood. At the end of the mass we remove Jesus (statue) from the church and then we get ready for Good Friday and on Good Friday there is no mass celebrated, but we have the reading of the Passion story where Jesus is condemned and then crucified."
Good Friday is treated similarly to a funeral.
"Good Friday is a day of fasting and a day of mourning for Catholics for the death of our Lord," Zagorski said. "It's also a day we can't eat meat.
Saturday is when the Catholics celebrate their Easter vigil.
"Easter vigil is the High Holy Day for us," Zagorski said. "The church is totally dark from good Friday until the Easter vigil. Then we light the Easter fire and then the candles and the priest enters with the new Easter Paschal Candle. People light candles from the Easter Paschal Candle and we process into the church with just the candles.
"Once we process in we have the singing of the exulted. Once that is sung the lights come on and the Gloria is sung. Then begins the mass and one of the highlights of the mass is when new converts are admitted into the church. They've been studying for seven months to come into the church."
Easter for the Catholic Church does not end the following Sunday.
"We celebrate Easter for another 40 days until Pentecost," Zagorski said.

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