Pathways through Lent

Weekday reflections from St. John’s in the season of Lent.

Friday after Ash Wednesday: February 16, 2024

Eternal Lord of love, behold your Church walking once more the pilgrim way of Lent. 

Each year as we begin our Lenten journey, I’m struck by the abrupt shift from Epiphany to Lent. For the past six Sundays we’ve reflected on themes of light, from the light of that star that led three wise men to Bethlehem, to this past Sunday when we saw Christ transfigured in light upon the mountain peak. If you’re like me, you love to read and sing about light. It provides comfort and warmth, particularly during these cold months when the days are short. Perhaps that’s why the transition into Lent can feel swift and jarring. On Wednesday, we smudged ash on our foreheads and reminded one another that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The light had seemingly gone away.

Lent is a journey back toward the light of God. Along the way, we shed some comforts to focus on aspects of our lives that are less than comfortable—misplaced priorities, broken relationships, unhealthy habits. People often choose to give something up or to take something on as a reminder that self-imposed discipline can strengthen faith. Our liturgies reflect this discipline. In our psalm singing, we deny ourselves the harmonies of Anglican chant in favor of unaccompanied plainsong. The Gloria, “Glory to God in the highest,” is exchanged for the Kyrie, “Lord, have mercy upon us.” We even avoid singing the word Allelu**. 

This year, Lent coincides with Black History Month. This Sunday’s communion anthem is by a fascinating composer named Vicente Lusitano. He was a Catholic priest and musician who was born in Portugal in the sixteenth century. After being slandered publicly by a colleague, he moved to Germany, where he converted to Protestantism. Scholarship regards him as the first published European composer of African heritage. In his Latin anthem Emendemus in melius, Lusitano sets the text of a prayer for the First Sunday in Lent:

Let us amend for the better in those things in which we have sinned through ignorance; lest suddenly overtaken by the day of death, we seek space for repentance and be not able to find it. Hearken, O Lord, and have mercy: for we have sinned against thee.

 As we continue this Lenten journey back to the light of God, may we bear in mind the words of Dr. King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

Brent Erstad
Director of Music and Organist

Links to the appointed readings for today