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The Symbols of Lent

Responsive Readings for the Season of Lent and Easter Sunday

These responsive readings are intended to be used as part of the service of worship on the six Sundays of Lent and Easter Sunday.  Most are coordinated with Scripture readings from the Revised Common Lectionary, with a different set of readings provided for each of the three years of the readings cycle.

The liturgy helps focus attention on both the penitential aspect of Lent, as well as anticipation of the hope and newness of Resurrection Sunday. The readings are designed to be used as a prayerful response to the reading of Scripture, incorporating the message of the Old Testament readings into the reflections and prayers.

The liturgy is also designed to be used with a Lenten sanctuary cross and physical representations of the various symbols. In many churches, a large yet simple rough hewn wooden cross is placed at the front of the sanctuary in a prominent place on Ash Wednesday.  This cross becomes the graphic symbol of the six weeks of Lent, and is sometimes used in a Good Friday service.

The symbols can be either small banners or actual representations of the objects.  If objects are used, they should be full size and reasonably realistic. They can be placed on the cross and left during the entire season of Lent. Banners can also be used in the sanctuary in addition to objects as an additional visual reminder. If the sanctuary is equipped for media presentations, it is also effective to use a good quality photo of the object on a large screen as the object is placed on the cross. Note:  In the accompanying liturgies, the order of the symbols vary.  The order here is used for Year C.

Lent 1: a small nail at the very top of the cross will provide a place to hang the placard. It can be as simple as the letters INRI,  the first Latin letters of the inscription "Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews."

Lent 2: the whip should be a short cat-of-nine-tails type and can be placed at the foot of the cross or hung at the center on a pre-positioned small nail; if placed in the center, it should be moved to allow the crown of thorns to take that place on Lent 5.

Lent 3: the coins can be in a small leather of cloth bag and can initially be placed at the foot of the cross.

Lent 4: the nails should be good sized spikes; if possible, they can hammered into the cross in predrilled holes with a metal hammer; the sound of the hammering is powerful reminder of the reality of crucifixion. After the nails are driven, the whip and bag of coins can be hung on the side nails.

Lent 5: the crown of thorns should be hung in the center of the cross.

Lent 6: the palms can be laid upright against the foot of the cross.

All of the symbols should be removed from the cross for Easter Sunday.


Liturgy for Year A

Liturgy for Year B

Liturgy for Year C

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2018, Dennis Bratcher, All Rights Reserved
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