- Today is Laetare Sunday, the midpoint of Lent. Will your people notice? When they enter the worship space, will this Sunday look different from last week? Will the music sound different?
- Laetare means “rejoice.” The entrance antiphon in the Missal reads, “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.” We don’t often use the entrance antiphon because we begin the liturgy with a hymn. Seeing what the Missal has, however, can guide us in choosing our opening song. Can the musicians find a hymn or song that echoes the theme of that antiphon?
- Whether people notice that this Sunday is different somehow will probably depend on how the rest of Lent is being observed. The Missal notes: “In this Mass, the color violet or rose is used. Instrumental music is permitted, and the altar may be decorated with flowers.” That rubric assumes that instrumental music is not being used on other Lenten days and that flowers are not evident during the rest of Lent. The color of vestments is optional, but a rose vestment is a clear symbol that this day is different.
- The décor and the vestments are relatively easy to adjust for Lent. The more challenging (and thus often ignored) guidance is the one about music. The rubric at the beginning of Lent (see Ash Wednesday in the Missal) says: “During Lent, it is not permitted to decorate the altar with flowers, and the use of musical instruments is allowed only so as to support the singing.” It goes on to note that Laetare Sunday, solemnities and feasts are exceptions to this rule.
- What might work in your community? One easy step is to remind all the musicians that silence is a value in every liturgy and especially during this penitential season. So even if instruments are used to support the assembly’s singing, there should be no purely instrumental music. When people are not singing, let silence reign.
- Beyond that, how can musicians scale back the instruments for Lent? Can organists use a simpler and lighter registration of stops? Can some songs be accompanied by a single instrument, like a flute or violin or guitar? Can the assembly actually sing many songs without instrumental accompaniment? A good cantor can get people started on the right note and keep the pace of the singing steady. One advantage of this approach is that people may actually hear themselves singing. They may well be surprised at how well they can do without instruments supporting them, which might increase their confidence in singing the rest of the year. Talk with the musicians and see what can be done to simplify the aural environment in Lent.
Adapted: LAWRENCE MICK ©2018: The pastoral/worship planning resource from 2018 Reflections, 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.
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