CNP Logo CanticaNOVA Publications
Online Catalog
Musical Musings
Liturgical Planners
Submit Your Music
Contact Us
Company Description

Changes in Lent

by Gary D. Penkala

Part 1: General Changes and
Changes in the Mass

The Church sets the season of Lent distinctly apart from the rest of the liturgical year. Some differences are general, like the abandonment of the acclamation, "Alleluia," and the use of the color violet; some apply to the Mass, some apply to the Liturgy of the Hours, and some occur during the RCIA rituals. All of these changes, combined with homiletic focus, church decoration (or lack thereof), and music selections, should make the congregation keenly aware that this season is special, and should turn our minds to Lent's "twofold theme of repentance and baptism." (Ceremonial of Bishops #249)

The most universal liturgical change during the season of Lent is the rubric that strikes the use of "Alleluia" from any and every celebration. Both Advent and Lent share the same liturgical color, and both drop the Gloria from the seasonal Masses, but only Lent forbids the use of "Alleluia." And the ban is far-reaching. No "Alleluia" before the Gospel at Mass, no "Alleluia" at the Introductory Verse for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, no "Alleluia" in any other text, including choral music, vocal music and hymns. Alleluia, or "Hallelu-yah" is of Hebrew origin, meaning "Praise Yahweh." It occurs in Scripture, particularly in the Psalms, and is associated with joy and festivity.

The seasonal color for Lent is violet, and any liturgies "of the season" (i.e. Sundays and weekdays of Lent) require this color, with the exception of Laetare Sunday (the 4th Sunday of Lent) when rose-colored vestments are traditionally worn. Breaking this solid six weeks of violet color are any solemnities and feasts that occur during Lent (Chair of Saint Peter, Saint Joseph, Annunciation) and the Chrism Mass [with white vestments] and Palm Sunday [with red vestments].

Unless they honor the patron saint of a parish (and are then treated as a solemnity), all memorials during Lent become commemorations. The Mass and Office for the Lenten day is celebrated (with violet vestments). At Mass, the Collect for the saint may be used at the conclusion of the Universal Prayer. At Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, the Lenten Closing Prayer is stopped short of its conclusion, the proper Gospel Canticle antiphon for the saint is inserted, followed by the Closing Prayer for the saint, with its conclusion. (see GILH #239)

The Roman Missal — Third Edition (2010) states:

During Lent , it is not permitted to decorate the altar with flowers, and the use of musical instruments is allowed only so as to support the singing. Nevertheless, Laetare Sunday (the Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts are exceptions to this rule. [GIRM, Lent #4]

Organ preludes and postludes should be conspicuously lacking from Lenten liturgies. One might take this rubric a step further by exploring the use of a cappella music with choirs and most particularly with the congregation. A Closing Song sung without any accompaniment, followed by no postlude of any kind, is a stark reminder at the end of Mass that this season calls for interior reflection and change. Parishes should avoid the urge to "adorn" the altar with "Lenten flowers" like naked branches or pussy willows or cacti. It seems the intent of the rubric above is to avoid decoration in general, so that bareness and simplicity reign.

Several changes occur specifically during Mass. There is no Gloria except on solemnities and feasts and other more solemn occasions. As with the other seasons (as opposed to Ordinary Time) even the weekday celebrations have their own specific Mass propers (i.e. Introit, Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, Communion Antiphon and Prayer after Communion). A large variety of Prefaces exist for use during Lent. There are specific Prefaces for the First Sunday of Lent (ABC), the Second Sunday of Lent (ABC), the Third Sunday of Lent (A), the Fourth Sunday of Lent (A) and the Fifth Sunday of Lent (A), and for Palm Sunday (ABC). In addition, there are two Prefaces for the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays during Years B and C. There are two Prefaces for weekdays of Lent, one for the fifth week of Lent, one for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, and one for the Chrism Mass.

 Back to Lent Index

Part 2: Changes Outside of Mass

Home / Online Catalog / Musical Musings / Liturgical Planning
Submit Your Music / Contact Us / Company Description / Links

CanticaNOVA Publications / PO Box 1388 / Charles Town, WV 25414-7388

Send website comments or questions to: