These 40 Days of Lenten Music

In just over a week we enter into the sacred season of Lent. Forty days of fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and a call in this “Year of Faith” proclaimed by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to strengthen our faith and to help strengthen the faith of others. So what will change? In our own lives, will we just give up the same thing we gave up last year again or will we really take the time to reflect upon those things that lead us away from Christ? Will we truly seek to put those things aside and be more closely united with Christ in his Passion and death? As music ministers and servants of the Church and its Liturgy, the Church calls us to be examples and role models of its practices.

During Lent, how will our Liturgies change? From the environment, to the music, will people notice a shift in season when they enter into our churches this Ash Wednesday or will they just notice that we don’t sing Alleluia or the Glory to God? If these are the only changes they encounter then we’ve missed the mark. There should be an environment created that we are truly entering the desert with Christ for forty days. We also need to ask ourselves how our music ministry will become more of a desert experience? Prayer with our ministers is number one. If it’s not a common practice every Sunday, we need to make it a priority.

Less Instruments

Maybe we decide to scale back the instruments a bit during lent and let the voices shine through a little more to better support the singing of the congregation. Although this is always a good idea and should be practiced commonly, Lent is a great time to practice musician restraint. The Church also asks that in this season, the instruments only be used to support the singing of the congregation (GIRM 313).

In regards to a Youth Liturgy, how can we live this out? It might be a good idea to not have any instrumental music during Lent such as instrumental verses or instrumental postludes after the Recessional Song. You may want to make it a practice at your parish to have only light percussion instead of a full drum set on all or most of the songs during lent. I hate to make the reference, but sort of an “Unplugged” version of the music ministry would be appropriate during this Lenten season to bring a greater expectation to the season of Easter we will soon celebrate.

Maybe you’re considering not using instruments at all on one Sunday during the season or just one instrument that introduces the song and supports the singing. Maybe you put away the electric guitar for the season and have your guitarist play an acoustic adding a different texture and sound. Two acoustic guitars can be well done if one plays a capo version of the chords in a different key or if one plays some lead parts and the other rhythm.

Of course, we need to remember that on Laetare Sunday, which is the fourth Sunday in Lent, we are called to a greater joy and expectation of the coming Easter season celebrating that we are almost to the celebration of the Triduum and Easter (GIRM 313). This Sunday can be celebrated with more joy and anticipation of Easter. Departing in Silence during Lent or on Passion Sunday is a valid option as well calling our youth to practice a silence that will lead them to a fuller desert experience.

Hold the Alleluia

A common mistake that musicians sometimes make is not going through ALL the lyrics of a song while planning the music. Many songs use the word “Alleluia” in them. “God of Wonders” or “I Can Only Imagine,” both have the word “Alleluia” in them, but it’s easily forgotten until you go to sing it and realize that it’s there. Take the time to analyze all the lyrics of songs before setting them in stone on a worship aide or telling your group that it’s one of the songs you’re singing that week and having to make a last minute change.

Theme Song

Having a set theme song for the season that is sung every week might also be a good idea. Ask your Presiders to try and tie in the focus of the song into the Mass. It can really help to bring the season alive.

Some examples are:

  • Christ In Me Arise (Thomson) [Christ In Me Arise]
  • Desert Song (Fraser) Hillsong Publishing [This Is Our God]
  • Journey For Home (Bolduc) WLP [The Face of God, Voices As One]
  • Lead Me Home (Maher) OCP [Welcome to Life, Spirit & Song II]
  • Restored (Blakesley, Hart, Byrd) [From “The Commons: Restored”]
  • Revive Us, O God (Manibusan) OCP [Power of Peace, Spirit & Song]
  • Rise From The Ashes (Colson) Colsongs []

This lent, may we truly change our hearts and draw nearer to our Lord, especially through our Liturgies and the ways that we worship.

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