The Saint Paul’s Lenten Liturgy Explained

In Lent, more than any other season, we make some fairly dramatic changes to the Sunday service in order to reflect the mood of the season.  While it is true that Sundays in Lent are still “mini-Easters,” which is why we celebrate the Eucharist (Great Thanksgiving) and continue to remember not only Jesus’ death, but his resurrection, ascension, and the surety of his coming again.  Below you will find the entirety of our Sunday liturgy with notes along the way as to what the changes means, where they’ve come from, and, in some cases, why we’ve made them.

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Standing – The Procession enters in silence
Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins.
His mercy endures for ever.  Amen.

The opening acclamation during Lent is prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer.  We have chosen to enter in silence this year to highlight the starkness of the season.  You’ll also notice that the sanctuary has been stripped of its usual brass and silver trimmings.  Instead, earth tones and pottery remind us visually of what is to come in the great silence of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Kneeling
Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
Silence.
Almighty and most merciful father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep, we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, we have offended against your holy laws, we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.  But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us, spare those who confess their faults, restore those who are penitent, according to your promises declared unto humankind in Christ Jesus our Lord; and grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.

The Almighty and merciful Lord grant you absolution and remission of all your sins, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit. Amen.

As is our custom, we will be using the service of Holy Eucharist Rite I, which we have conformed to contemporary language.  This is a backwards reading of a rubric on page 14 of the Book of Common Prayer that allows for contemporary idioms to be conformed in traditional language.  The Confession occurs right at the beginning of the service, as in the Penitential Order and the Daily Office, in order to prepare our hearts for what is to come in the rest of the litrugy.

The Trisagion
Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us.
Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us.
Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us.

The Trisagion literally means “thrice holy” and is a standard replacement for the Gloria or a Hymn of Praise during Lent.  

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray.
The Collect

The Lessons

The SermonThe Nicene CreedI believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the Prophets.
And I believe in one holy catholic and Apostolic Church; I acknowledge on Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

Again, we have brought the Rite I rendition of the Nicene Creed into more modern language.

Kneeling
Prayers of the People
In joy and humility let us pray to the creator of the universe, saying, “Give us strength and hear our prayer.”

We pray to the Lord for courage to give up other things and to give ourselves to him this Lent.  Give your Church the courage to give up her preoccupations with herself and to give more time to your mission in the world.  We pray especially for Katherine, our Presiding Bishop, Philip, our Bishop, Keith and Steve, our Priests, and for the staff, vestry, and lay leaders of this congregation.  Give us strength and hear our prayer.

We pray for the special need and concerns of this congregation, including: (The prayer list is read) Give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give you world the courage to give up war, bitterness, and hatred, and to seek peace.  May the shoulders of the risen Jesus, once scourged by soldiers, bear the burden of political and military conflict in the world.  Lord, meet us in the silence, Give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up quarrels, strife, and jealousy in our families, neighborhoods, and communities.  May the presence of the risen Jesus, his body once broken and now made whole, bring peace and direction as we live with on another.  Lord meet us in the silence, Give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up our selfishness as we live for others, and to give time, care, and comfort to the sick.  May the wounded hands of Jesus bring his healing touch, and the light of his presence fill their lives.  Lord, meet us in the silence,  Give us strength and hear our prayer.

Give us the courage to give up our fear of death and to rejoice with those who have died in faith.  May the feet of the risen Lord Jesus, once nailed to the cross, walk alongside the dying and bereaved in their agony, and walk with us and all your Church through death to the gate of glrory.  Lord, meet us in the silence, Give us strength and hear our prayer.

The Celebrant may then offer the following words of comfort.
Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him. Come to me, all you are tired and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Mt. 11:28)

The Prayers of the People come from the Church of England’s supplemental liturgical resource entitled, “Common Worship” and is indicated as especially appropriate for Lent.  We change our recent custom and include the reading of our parish prayer list to remind us that our attendance at worship is not for ourselves alone, but for those who sit around us as well as those who cannot join along.  Our prayer is two-fold: give us strength and hear our prayer.  The strength is defined in each petition as the courage required to meet the days ahead with faith.

Standing
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.

Presentation

A subtle change happens here, which isn’t so much about Lent as it is about the theme for our Lenten Programs: Stewardship.  In the past, we have sat as members of the congregation offered our oblation (offering) of bread and wine and then we stand up, sing, and make grand gestures about the money when it comes up front.  This isn’t exactly what the Prayer Book intends.  Instead, the rubrics tell us to stand as all the gifts are offered and placed on the Altar.  This seems to be much more in line with our theological understanding the everything we have, not just our money, is a gift from God that should be used to the up-building of the Kingdom.  So we offer all three gifts, symbolically offering ourselves, “our souls and bodies” for the glory of God.
The Holy Communion
Standing
The Great Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up unto the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is meet and right to give him thanks and praise.
It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks to you, O Lord, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ our Lord; who was tempted in every way as we are, yet did not sin. By his grace we are able to triumph over every evil, and to live no longer for ourselves alone, but for him who died for us and rose again.  Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify your glorious Name; evermore praising you, and saying,Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might;
Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest.

I’m often asked why we can say “Hosanna” in Lent but not “Alleluia.”  Hosanna is a shout of salvation, which means “Save us Lord.”  While, Alleluia is simply a shout of joy.  We save Alleluia for the great celebration of Easter.

The people remain standing or kneel
All glory be to you, O Lord our God, for you created heaven and earth, and made us in your own image; and, of your tender mercy, gave your only Son Jesus Christ to take our nature upon him, and to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption. He made there a full and perfect sacrifice for the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again.

For in the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Likewise, after supper, he took the cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you; for this is my Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins. Do this, as often as you shall drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Therefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, we your people do celebrate and make, with these your holy gifts which we now offer to you, the memorial your Son commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; and looking for his coming again with power and great glory.

And we most humbly beseech you, O merciful Father, to hear us, and, with your Word and Holy Spirit, to bless and sanctify these gifts of bread and wine, that they may be for us the Body and Blood of your dearly-beloved Son Jesus Christ.

And we earnestly desire your fatherly goodness to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, whereby we offer and present to you, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies. Grant, that all who partake of this Holy Communion may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of your Son Jesus Christ, and be filled with your grace and heavenly benediction; and also that we and the whole Church may be made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord; By whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory be to you, O Father Almighty, world without end. AMEN.

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say,
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.

We tried to use the modern “ecumenical version” of the Lord’s Prayer last year, but our children rebelled.  Even as young as 2 or 3, they knew the version we use most often, and so we continue to use it so that they can join us in the liturgy, which means “the work of the people.”

The Breaking of the Bread
O Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
O Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
O Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Another place where the Prayer Book offers a more seasonally appropriate option.

Prayer of Humble Access
Merciful Lord we come here to your table trusting not in our own goodness but in your measureless grace.Even though we are not worthy to eat the crumbs from under your table, you are always overflowing with mercy.  Gracious Lord, enable us by faith in Jesus Christ to eat his flesh and drink his blood, so that we may be cleansed and forever dwell in him, and he in us.  Amen.

The Gifts of God for the People of God.  Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith with thanksgiving.

Let us pray.
Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank you for your feeding us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and for assuring us thereby of your favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of your Son, the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs, through hope, of your everlasting kingdom.  And we humbly beseech you, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with your grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as you have prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

From beginning to end, the tone of the Eucharistic Prayer in Rite I is different than Rite II.  In Rite I, we are keenly aware of God’s power at work in the life, ministry, and sacrifice of Jesus.  In Rite II, we find ourselves standing alongside, which is, by and large, not a bad thing.  However, when we forget that our salvation is a gift of grace, something that is wholly undeserved by us, there is a tendency to put ourselves on par with God, somehow deserving of his love and charity.  The great language of Rite I reminds us of our sinfulness and our need for repentance and a savior.

The Blessing

The Dismissal
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

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2 thoughts on “The Saint Paul’s Lenten Liturgy Explained

  1. Steve, This is a nice post that I think is probably very helpful for your people. One comment. “Alleluia” is the Latin form of “Hallelujah” which is a Hebrew word meaning “Praise the Lord.” In some Bibles, where the BCP has Hallelujah, the translation reads “Praise the Lord.” Why we can say “Praise the Lord” in Lent but not Alleluia has never made sense to me, however.

    • Adam,
      Thanks for the helpful note. I meant to include that in the post as I explained the difference between Hosanna and Alleluia, but it slipped my mind. And, FWIF, I try to avoid saying, “Praise the Lord” in most contexts, but especially in Lent. “Thanks be to God” is my preferred ecclesiastical explicative.

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