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The Lenten Season

Ash Wednesday and Lent
Distribution of ashes at both Masses - 9.00 am and 6.30 pm

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It is so-called because those who go to church on that day have their foreheads marked with a cross from the ashes made from burning the palms of the previous Sunday to remind them that they are but dust and to dust they will return. Originally penitents were obliged to go about in sackcloth as a sign of their repentance. It is a sign of hope not despair because the Christian looks forward to the promise of Easter and a rising again with Christ.

For many centuries the church imposed strict fasting and abstinence laws on its members for about forty days. this period varied at first, but was intended to imitate Jesus' 40 days in the desert before going up to Jerusalem for the last time. These rules have been gradually relaxed, not so that the faithful should therefore cease to mark the season, but so that each person can choose the way that best suits them. As St Paul said,

"Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline in order to be crowned with a wreath that does not last; but we do it for one that will last for ever. That is why I run straight for the finishing-line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. "

So, what is the strict discipline that is required to 'win the race'? Much the same in many respects as the athlete or boxer - careful attention to diet, health and training, along with health of mind as well as body! The uncomfortable truth is that this regime is not just for Lent, it's for life, and this time of year is the most suitable to embark on it.


Join a like-minded group
Adopt a better diet
Live a simpler life
Walk often
Exercise and sport

Learn something new
'Positive' thinking
Meet people



The Annunciation of the Lord - March 25th, Ladyday

There may be some duplication of notes as these files are updated. Please note that the Annunciation, Laetare Sunday and Mothering Sunday may coincide but are not the same as each other!

This used to be called the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but the emphasis is now restored to the fact that the angel or messenger was announcing the coming birth of Jesus and the dawn of a new era. Our year of Jubilee should perhaps really begin here!

The angel Gabriel said of the child who was to be born - God who humbled himself to become one of us to show us the way to himself - "He will be great and will be the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end."
Mary replied, "I am the Lord's servant. May it happen to me as you have said."

The name Gabriel means "God is my hero" or "mighty man of God," and he is one who is said to stand "in the presence of God, " thereby earning the title of "Archangel." Gabriel announced the birth of John the Baptist and also appears in the story of Daniel in the Old Testament. He is one of the only two angels mentioned by name in the Bible, the other being Michael.

Gabriel was declared the patron of post office, telephone and telegraph workers in 1921.

The calendar originally in use for many centuries in England was the Julian calendar, depending on the church's feast days! The year began on 25 March, the day of the Annunciation, and was known as Lady Day or Ladyday. On that day farm servants were usually hired (or fired!) for the half-year and six monthly rents and payments etc became due, (though not necessarily collected or paid for another month or so), the other half year beginning on 25 September, the Feast of St Michael the Archangel, known as Michaelmas Day, or just 'Michaelmas.'

By about 1580 the year was 'slipping' as its length was miscalculated by the old calendar. After about two hundred years of discussion, disagreement and varying systems throughout Europe, England finally replaced the old Julian Calendar with the Gregorian calendar (which we still use now) on Wednesday 2 September 1752, that day being followed by Thursday 14 September. There were riots after the bill was passed in Parliament, the people demanding 'Give us back our eleven days!' as if they had actually been 'removed'. The 'financial year' was never changed, except to move it a few days to the beginning of April.

By AD 4909 the Gregorian calendar will be one day ahead of the 'real' year. The length of the year (one circuit around the sun) is now only out by fragments of a second as calculated by atomic clocks. Atomic Time, measured in oscillations of atomic cesium, officially replaced Earth Time in 1972 but of course the difference is not noticeable to us!

More on Lady Day today

The financial year is associated historically with 25th March, the Annunciation of Our Lady, traditionally known as 'Ladyday' or 'Lady Day'. It was chosen to mark the beginning of the New Year partly as the first of the four Quarter Days when day and night are of equal length. January 1 had long been celebrated as part of the Christmas season, but March 25th, for legal and financial reasons, was important as the first day of the new year. Contracts lasting for a year began then and landowners and farmers generally charged their rents from that day in two six month payments, the second being due on Michaelmas Day, the Feast of the Archangels, St Michael, St Gabriel and St Raphael, on 29 September. (In practice payments due on Lady Day might not be claimed until the beginning of May, and for Michaelmas the beginning of November). Until 1752 England was still using the old Julian Calendar , long after it had been replaced by the more accurate Gregorian Calendar. introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom it was named, in 1582. Initially this involved omitting eleven days to synchronise the two calendars. At first there were riots around the country with cries of 'Give us back our eleven days!' but there was no going back. January 1 followed the Roman practice and became the first day of the year, the day from which the calendar year has been calculated since then. (For dates before 1752 genealogical sources especially often quote both calendars, as in '1748/1749', the first quarter of the Gregorian year being the last quarter of the Julian!)



Laetare (Mothering) Sunday

The fourth Sunday of Lent is called "Laetare" after the first word of the Introit, the beginning prayer of the Mass at the foot of the altar:
"Laetare, Jerusalem.."

Rejoice, Jerusalem, be glad for her,
you who love her
Rejoice with her now,
all you that have mourned for her!
You will enjoy her prosperity,
like a child at its mother's breast.

In a time of repentance (turning to God) it is a moment of relaxing from the rigours of fasting and self-denial and looking towards the joy and triumph of Easter. St Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians ( 4.22-26) explains -

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman was born through the promise.
Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants.
  • One woman in fact is Hagar from Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.
  • But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free and she is our mother.

See also more ideas and a mime on the theme 'Rejoice!'


Occasionally of course Laetare Sunday it coincides with Mothering Sunday and/or the Feast of the Annunciation but these are really quite distinct celebrations.

Simnel Cake
In the Middle Ages people ate Simnel cake, a rich fruit cake topped with marzipan on this day. The word 'Simnel' comes from the Latin through Old French 'simenel' meaning 'finest flour'. Nowadays this Sunday is referred to as Mothering Sunday and has become a celebration of mothers and children in general, obscuring the original meaning of it. However, neither tradition is exclusive and, especially for Christians, each can enrich the other.

Lent and Easter
Some of the Stations of the Cross by the children in 2003
are a permanent feature of the pages on the Church's Seasons
Jesus arrives in Jerusalem The end of Lent :
The events of Holy Week from Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem to his death on the cross were illustrated by the children with a large poster at the 10.30 Mass and a mime at the
Stations of the Cross for
Churches Together on Palm Sunday.
See also Easter

The Passover Supper
takes place in the Parish centre on the Wednesday of Holy Week. What is it? See Passover

The next day John saw Jesus
coming towards him and said,
"Look, the Lamb of God,
who takes away
the sin of the world."
   John 1: 29


Holy Thursday
11.30 a.m Chrism Mass in the Cathedral at Lancaster the clergy take a small group of altar servers to collect the holy oils which will be used in baptism and in the anointing of the sick throughout the year to come.
7.30 p.m. Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper
The holy oils blessed at the Chrism Mass will be brought to the altar
Washing of the feet. Only the Gospel of St John has this story of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, a necessary task after a dusty walk, but one they expected a servant or slave to do.
Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God. So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel round his waist. Then he poured some water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and dry them with the towel round his waist.. ...
After Jesus had washed their feet, he put his outer garment back on and returned to his place at the table.
"Do you understand what I have just done to you?" he asked. "You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you should do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another's feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you. ..."
Offertory Procession - all the parish organisations are invited to bring tokens of their good works during Lent.
Procession to the altar of repose. The bread and wine is placed in the tabernacle here as none is consecrated on Good Friday.
Watching in church till midnight before the altar of repose.
10.30 p.m. A short form of night prayer Compline, the Evening Prayer of the church.


Good Friday
The full fast and abstinence is still observed, not just as a penance but so that we can concentrate on the meaning of the terrible events of that day. The origin of the word "Good" in the title is never commented on, but is worth thinking about. Jesus shared our humanity even to the ultimate penalty.

"He emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave and became as men are, and being as all men are he was humbler yet, even to accepting death on a cross."
The meaning of this is not to be found in the despair of the psalm Jesus was praying at the moment of death, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" but in the joy of the Resurrection. The reading from St Paul's letter to the Philippians (2: 6-11) continues,
"But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on the earth and in the underworld should bend at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father."