Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As I write this, the parish mission is in full swing, and we've had a fantastic turnout. It is truly a great way to "get us into" Lent. As with anything that involves so many moving parts, it could not have gone so well without the help of a great number of staff and volunteers. So, a big "thank you" is in order to each and every person who helped in any way.
Don't forget the Ecumenical Lenten Lunches every Wednesday of Lent from 12 – 1pm, this year at First Presbyterian Church, 224 Barnwell Ave. NW. Donations from the lunch go to ACTS. (St. Mary's parish is one of the founding members of ACTS – Area Churches Together Serving.) St. Mary's parish is leading the prayers and providing the food, music, and speaker on March 21, but let's make a good showing at each of them!
As part of your Lent, please keep in your prayers the several men and women who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church this Easter by Baptism or through a Profession of Faith (for those already validly baptized). They have been attending classes and preparing since September, and are excited to see the end in sight!
I was recently asked why the Church "drops" the Alleluia during Lent. In fact, it is never once uttered during the sacred liturgy from Ash Wednesday until its triumphal return at the Great Easter Vigil. "Alleluia" comes to us from Hebrew, meaning "Praise the Lord" / "Praise God." Traditionally, it has been seen as the chief term of praise of the choirs of Angels as they worship around the throne of God in Heaven. It is and always has been an expression of praise, glorifying God for His goodness. For this reason Alleluia is closely associated with a season of joy and is in stark contrast with the somber, penitential attitude of Lent, when we are more focused on saying, "I'm sorry, God." Easter is a period of great joy and exultation, and singing Alleluia is the Church's way to highlight this reality, continually giving praise and honor to God along with the Angels.
Other changes you have noticed include "quieter" music (the Church asks that we have just enough music to support singing), no flowers, and purple vestments. We are called to be more reflective. Nevertheless, Laetare Sunday (the Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts that fall during Lent are exceptions. From the 5th Sunday of Lent until the Easter Vigil, the crosses and statues are covered as we go deeper into Lent with visual fasting.
These externals are aids to help us in our interior life. We must become a people who not only "do" the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, but we must live them day by day all year long as we replace the "self" with "Christ." "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:19-20).