In a time when serious public discussion of life is carried on without reference to its inner meaning; when there is no mention of transcendent reality; when “spirit” is equated with individual psychology; in such a time we ought to be speaking of God.
Resurrection Chapel National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Rites and Rituals For Lent, Easter, and Pentecost
Note: Earlier in Lent I presented the first half of Richard Price’s “Rites
and Rituals For Lent, Easter, and Pentecost,” originally published in The
Seasons, a small-circulation devotional
publication I co-edited for seventeen years.Richard intended it as an outline for readers wanting a
brief reminder of the major themes for worship in this important part of the
church year.Here now is the second
half, from Maundy Thursday through Pentecost.
rituals are an integral part of the liturgical and spiritual life of the
church.They provide a framework
within the larger frame of the calendar of the church year.The time from the season of Lent to the
Day of Pentecost offers a great number of these rites and rituals, which permit
us expression of our faith in a variety of liturgical settings.
Triduum / “The Three Days”
The Three Days
begin at sundown on Maundy Thursday and climax at dawn on Easter Sunday.During these days there is an
incredible richness and variety of rites and rituals, which are appropriate to
the pilgrimage from the upper room, to Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, and
resurrection.It may not be possible
to use all of the ritual, but careful planning can allow for use of many of the
Maundy Thursday(Liturgical Color: Scarlet or
The tradition of the
church tells us that this is the night when Jesus gathered his disciples in the
Upper Room, and what took place was the institution of Holy Eucharist.It is appropriate therefore to
celebrate that institution “in the night in which he was betrayed.”
On this night Jesus washed his disciples feet as a sign of his
servanthood.In many traditions,
the pastor will was the feet of a selection of the faithful, representing the
institution of pastoral ministry to the servant church.
A moving end to this liturgy is the stripping of the altar.All paraments are removed from the
altar, along with the vessels and linens of the sacrament.The clergy and the congregation then
depart in semi-darkness and utter silence symbolizing the darkness that will
come over the church on Good Friday.
Good Friday(Liturgical Color: Black or no color)
The rituals of this day focus on the crucifixion of
Jesus, and the cross upon which he died.It is a liturgy of darkness and silence.
The worship space is devoid of
paraments, banners, flowers, and other decorations. A cross that cannot be
removed should be veiled in black.A large cross is carried in procession through the church and placed in
front of the altar.Lighted
candles are carried with the cross and placed in stands on either side.An antiphon, The Solemn Reproaches, is
sung in adoration of the crucified Christ.Following the antiphon there is silence for reflection.During this time the assembly may come
forward to the cross to make a sign of reverence,which may include such actions as pausing before the cross,
kneeling before it for prayer, touching or kissing it.All then depart in silence
Another ritual, perhaps more
familier, is The Office of Tenebrae, which consists of a series of
readings.Following each reading a
candle is extinguished until there is complete darkness representing the extinguishing
of the light of the world, Christ’s death on the cross.
Vigil of Easter(Liturgical Color: Gold or White)
This is one of the most ancient
liturgies of the church, when the catechumens were baptized and made members of
the community.The dynamic of the
liturgy begins in darkness, representing Christ’s death and burial in the
tomb.As the liturgy progresses,
light is added as the liturgy makes its way to the glorious celebration of
Christ rising from the dead.
Traditionally, this liturgy begins
in the late hour of the night, so that at midnight, the first hour of Easter
Day, commences the celebration of the resurrection.
This liturgy is rich with ritual
beginning with the bringing of new fire and the lighting of the paschal
candle.There follows the reading
of the Easter Proclamation, and continuing with twelve readings from the Old
Testament which rehearse God’s acts of salvation.Following the homily, there is a litany of the saints, which
is a prelude to administration of the Sacrament of Baptism and the reception of
new members.The liturgy concludes
with a celebration of Holy Eucharist, during which the newly baptized received
the sacrament for the first time.
Easter Vigil is a lengthly and
complicated liturgy which should be well planned and rehearsed so that all
participants understand the meaning of the liturgy and their role and
responsibility.It is possible to
edit the liturgy, but the editing should be done with care to retain the
of Our Lord
Easter Day(Liturgical Color: Gold or White)
be appropriate to begin this liturgy with the Thanksgiving for Baptism.The Gloria in Excelsis, which was
not sung during Lent, is now sung with joy and exhaultation.If the Easter Vigil is not
celebrated some of the elements of that liturgy could be included; Lighting of
the Paschal Candle, the Sacrament of Baptism, and the Easter Proclamation
Sundays of Easter(Liturgical Color: White)
Sundays continue the joyous celebration of Christ’s resurrection, and again, it
is appropriate to begin the liturgy with Thanksgiving for Baptism.
Day, Day of Pentecost
Ascension Day(Liturgical Color: White)
Day falls on the Thursday between the sixth and seventh Sundays of the Easter
season, and in recent generations has essentially been ignored, most likely
because it falls on a week day.The celebration of this day could very well be transferred to the
seventh Sunday so that if offers a bridge to the Day of Pentecost.There are no particular rituals
associated with this day, but it would be appropriate to continue the
continuity of the season with use of Thanksgiving for Baptism.
Day of Pentecost(Liturgical Color: Red)
is sometimes called “the birth day of the church,” since its focus is on the
coming of the Holy Spirit to empower the disciples.Appropriate rituals for this day include Thanksgiving for
Baptism, Confirmation, Reception of New Members, and the Rite of Ordination to