The Book of Common Prayer 1979 marked a radical departure from previous prayer books in that it highlighted Holy Baptism as the primary sacrament of Christian ministry in the church. The baptismal ecclesiology of the BCP 1979 notes that the first ministers of the church are the baptized faithful, an assembly to be supported and served in its ministries by deacons, priests, and bishops – not the laity living in polite submission to and dependence on every word of the clergy.
Consequently, the significance of the season of Lent shifted from late medieval introspection on one’s personal sin to the early Christian emphasis on preparing candidates for Holy Baptism and the baptized for the renewal of baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil. Indeed the lectionary readings of Lent are rightly interpreted in light of the assembly’s journey to the Three Days, the Sacred Triduum, with its culmination in the Vigil. In Holy Baptism, Christians become public witnesses to the Reign of God’s Justice and Peace, Love and Forgiveness as embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of the Jesus Christ.
The Baptismal Covenant serves as a Rule of Life for many Episcopalians: beginning with baptismal immersion in the diverse community of the Triune God and then moving to the breaking of the bread; resisting evil; proclaiming the Good News; serving Christ in all persons; striving for justice and peace; respecting the dignity of every human; and cherishing and protecting the beauty of creation.
Attention to the selection of hymns during Lent can support the shift toward baptismal formation as public witnesses to the “Good News of God in Christ.”
In our regional culture, much work is devoted to protecting the natural beauty and integrity of land, water, air, and other creatures. Attention to care for creation and what hampers such care is set forth in the Litany of Penitence prayed on Ash Wednesday in its recital of self-indulgent appetites; an intemperate love of worldly goods; blindness to suffering; and waste and pollution of creation.
The Season of Lent ends with sunset on Maundy Thursday. While the term “Holy Week” is still in usage, worship leaders can invite the parish to reserve the Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday as a paschal retreat culminating in the Great Vigil of Easter.
The Passion of Jesus Christ according to John continues to draw attention in light of English translations of the Greek term Ioudaion as “the Jews.” In light of the tragic history of Christian antisemitism, with preaching and hymn texts that assume all Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus (rather than the Roman imperial authorities), another and more accurate translation of the term has been considered and used in some parishes, that is, using the the terms “Judean” or “Judeans” instead of “Jew” or “Jews.” For why this change can be made, consider this brief article by Fr. Bosco Peters of the Anglican Church of Australia: https://liturgy.co.nz/jews-or-judeans. At the same time, preaching and formation rightly addresses the lingering effects of antisemitism in the church and in the United States.
Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission offers a Triduum webinar on “Symbols, Resources and Sanity” with the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, professor of liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific: https://liturgyandmission.org/2023/02/10/triduum-webinar-symbols-resources-and-sanity-with-rev-dr-ruth-meyers/