Ashes to Easter: A Lenten Toolbox

An Invitation to a Holy Lent

Dear People of God:

The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the
observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer. Amen.
(BCP p. 264)

“Looking Toward Lent” | University of Dayton, Ohio

Nuts & Bolts


Jesus, of course; apostles & disciples; Jews, Gentiles & Romans; women at the cross & women at the tomb; Judas & Peter; the People of God, including all the people in the pews.

What? Lent.

Early Christians observed “a season of penitence and fasting” in preparation for the Paschal feast, or Pascha (BCP, pp. 264-265). The season now known as Lent (from an Old English word meaning “spring,” the time of lengthening days) has a long history. Originally, in places where Pascha was celebrated on a Sunday, the Paschal feast followed a fast of up to two days. In the third century this fast was lengthened to six days. Eventually this fast became attached to, or overlapped, another fast of forty days, in imitation of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness. The forty-day fast was especially important for converts to the faith who were preparing for baptism, and for those guilty of notorious sins who were being restored to the Christian assembly. In the western church the forty days of Lent extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, omitting Sundays. The last three days of Lent are the sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Today Lent has reacquired its significance as the final preparation of adult candidates for baptism. Joining with them, all Christians are invited “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (BCP, p. 265).

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

To mark each of the forty days with musical meditation click into Simplify: Spiritual Songs for Lent.


Ash Wednesday, February 22 through Easter Sunday, April 9. Come join us in person! Click here for parish calendar of services.


Emmanuel Episcopal Church, of course! Located at 1608 Russell Road, Alexandria, VA 22306.


To use this Lenten Toolbox, scroll through, read, learn, ponder & practice (sequentially or randomly) any of the items that move you below. Always keeping in my mind the Anglican tradition of “all may, some do, none must.” Explanations and definitions are primarily to be found in An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: Glossary of Terms. Click on links to liturgies, hymnals, and more.


To faithfully observe the 40 Days of Lent & sacred events of Holy Week, in anticipation of the joyful celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, Messiah & Lord.

Blueprints & Plans

(Click on the links to view the Book of Common Prayer liturgies. Or order a hard copy BCP here.)

Shrove Tuesday:

The day immediately preceding Ash Wednesday. Shrove, derived from shrive, refers to the confession of sins as a preparation for Lent, a usual practice in Europe in the Middle Ages. Although the day is sometimes still used for self-examination and introspection, Shrove Tuesday eventually acquired the character of a carnival or festival in many places and is often celebrated with parades. As the final day before the austerity of the Lenten fast, Shrove Tuesday also has many customs pertaining to food. Pancakes are traditional in a number of European countries because eggs, sugar, and fat, commonly forbidden during the Lenten fast, are used up so they will not go to waste; the day is known as Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday in Ireland and in many Commonwealth countries. Similarly rich pre-Lenten treats, sweet pa̡czki are traditional in Poland, and king cake is an iconic part of Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) in New Orleans. 


Ash Wednesday:

The first of the forty days of Lent, named for the custom of placing blessed ashes on the foreheads of worshipers at Ash Wednesday services. The ashes are a sign of penitence and a reminder of mortality, and may be imposed with the sign of the cross. Ash Wednesday is observed as a fast in the church year of the Episcopal Church. The Ash Wednesday service is one of the Proper Liturgies for Special Days in the BCP (p. 264). Imposition of ashes at the Ash Wednesday service is optional.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

The Penitential Order:

The eucharist may begin with a penitential order (BCP, pp. 319-321, 351-353). The Penitential Order includes an acclamation and the confession of sin and absolution. It may also include the decalogue, and one or more appropriate sentences of scripture. These sentences of scripture include the Summary of the Law, Mt 22:37-40 or Mark 12:29-31; 1 Jn 1:8-9; and Heb 4:14, 16. The Penitential Order may be used as an entrance rite during Lent or other times to emphasize the penitential aspect of the eucharist.

The Penitential Order may be used as a separate service. When used separately, it concludes with suitable prayers and the grace or a blessing. When the Penitential Order is used to begin the eucharist, the service continues with the Gloria in excelsis, the Kyrie eleison, or the Trisagion. The confession and absolution are not repeated later in the service.

A deacon or lay person who leads the Penitential Order uses a modified form for the absolution, praying “Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life” (BCP, p. 321, 353). The Penitential Order is presented by the BCP in both traditional and contemporary language. The Rite 1 (traditional language) version of the Penitential Order includes both the general confession from the eucharistic rite, and the general confession from Rite 1 Morning Prayer (pp. 320-321).

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

The Sunday of the Passion, Palm Sunday:

The Sunday before Easter at which Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mt 21:1-11, Mk 11:1-11a, Lk 19:29-40) and Jesus’ Passion on the cross (Mt 26:36-27:66, Mk 14:32-15:47, Lk 22:39-23:56) are recalled. It is also known as the Sunday of the Passion. Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week. Red is the liturgical color for the day. The observance of Palm Sunday in Jerusalem was witnessed by the pilgrim Egeria in about 381-384. During this observance there was a procession of people down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem. The people waved branches of palms or olive trees as they walked. They sang psalms, including Ps 118, and shouted the antiphon, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The Palm Sunday observance was generally accepted throughout the church by the twelfth century. However, the day was identified in the 1549 BCP as simply “The Sunday next before Easter.” The blessing of branches and the procession were not included. The 1928 BCP added the phrase “commonly called Palm Sunday” to the title of the day. A form for blessing palms was provided by the Book of Offices (1960). The 1979 BCP presents the full title for the day, “The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday” (BCP, p. 270).

The liturgy of the palms is the entrance rite for the service. The congregation may gather at a place apart from the church and process to the church after the blessing of the branches of palm or other trees (BCP, p. 270). The liturgy of the palms includes a reading of one of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. The branches may be distributed to the people before the service or after the prayer of blessing. All the people hold branches in their hands during the procession. Appropriate hymns, psalms, or anthems are sung. The Prayer Book notes that the hymn “All glory, laud, and honor” (Hymns 154-155) and Ps 118:19-29 may be used (BCP, p. 271). The Hymnal 1982 also provides “Ride on! ride on in majesty!” (Hymn 156) and “Hosanna in the highest” (Hymn 157) for the procession at the liturgy of the palms. The Hymnal 1982 provides musical settings for the opening anthem, the blessing over the branches, and the bidding for the procession (Hymn 153). The procession may halt for a station at an appropriate place such as the church door. The BCP provides a stational collect which may be used (p. 272). The palm liturgy may be led by a deacon or lay reader if a bishop or priest is unavailable.

When the service includes the eucharist, the liturgy of the palms is followed by the salutation and the collect of the day. The service changes focus abruptly from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the solemnity of the Passion. In the 1979 BCP, the Passion gospel is drawn from one of the three synoptic accounts of the Passion, one of which is appointed for each of the three years in the eucharistic lectionary. The Passion gospel is announced simply, “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to _________.” The customary responses before and after the gospel are omitted (BCP, p. 272). The Passion gospel may be read or chanted by lay persons. Specific roles may be assigned to different persons, with the congregation taking the part of the crowd (BCP, p. 273). It is customary to observe a brief time of silence when the moment of Jesus’ death is described by the narrator. The Hymnal 1982 provides a variety of hymns concerning the Passion, including “Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle” (Hymns 165-166), “O sacred head, sore wounded” (Hymns 168-169), and “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” (Hymn 172).

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Maundy Thursday:

The Thursday in Holy Week. It is part of the Triduum, or three holy days before Easter. It comes from the Latin mandatum novum, “new commandment,” from Jn 13:34. The ceremony of washing feet was also referred to as “the Maundy.” Maundy Thursday celebrations also commemorate the institution of the eucharist by Jesus “on the night he was betrayed.” Egeria, a fourth-century pilgrim to Jerusalem, describes elaborate celebrations and observances in that city on Maundy Thursday. Special celebration of the institution of the eucharist on Maundy Thursday is attested by the Council of Hippo in 381. The Prayer Book liturgy for Maundy Thursday provides for celebration of the eucharist and a ceremony of the washing of feet which follows the gospel and homily. There is also provision for the consecration of the bread and wine for administering Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament on Good Friday. Following this, the altar is stripped and all decorative furnishings are removed from the church.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Good Friday:

The Friday before Easter Day, on which the church commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus. It is a day of fasting and special acts of discipline and self-denial. In the early church candidates for baptism, joined by others, fasted for a day or two before the Paschal feast. In the west the first of those days eventually acquired the character of historical reenactment of the passion and death of Christ. The liturgy of the day includes John’s account of the Passion gospel, a solemn form of intercession known as the solemn collects (dating from ancient Rome), and optional devotions before the cross (commonly known as the veneration of the cross). The eucharist is not celebrated in the Episcopal Church on Good Friday, but Holy Communion may be administered from the reserved sacrament at the Good Friday service. The BCP appoints readings for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer on Good Friday.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Holy Saturday:

The Saturday after Good Friday, which recalls the day when the crucified Christ visited among the dead while his body lay in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. In the Episcopal Church there is no eucharist on Holy Saturday. The BCP provides a simple liturgy of the word with collect and readings for the Holy Saturday service. The funeral anthem “In the midst of life” (BCP, pp. 484 or 492) is used instead of the prayers of the people (BCP, p. 283). In the ancient church, those preparing for baptism and perhaps others continued the fast they began on Good Friday. Holy Saturday ends at sunset. Fasting and other preparations end at sunset or with the Easter Vigil, which begins the celebration of Easter.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

The Plane & the Lathe


The experience of corporate or individual nearness with God, through words, acts, or silence. Any act or activity offered to God in a spirit of dedication may be prayerful. This nearness may take the form of addressing God, as in prayers of petition, praise, and thanksgiving; or the form of listening, as in contemplative and meditative prayer. Both forms assume a relationship between God and the one who prays. Prayer is the opening of the direct relationship between God and humanity. The Catechism states, “Christian prayer is response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit” (BCP, p. 856).

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

The Anglican Rosary is a contemplative, tactile, and portable form of prayer that you might like to explore this holy season. Click here to learn more.


Fasting is abstaining wholly or partially from all or certain foods, for physical or spiritual health. The extent and rigor of abstinence depends largely on custom and circumstance. Ancient Jews used fasting extensively. Christ taught it and practiced it. Early Christians fasted on specific days of the week, especially Wednesday and Friday. Baptismal candidates fasted for up to two days before their baptism. By the late middle ages abstinence from food was required before the reception of communion, and western Christians also fasted during Lent by abstaining from meat. As a spiritual discipline, fasting is an act of contrition, cleansing, and preparation. The BCP recommends fasting for the season of Lent, which Christians should observe “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Word” (BCP, p. 265). The BCP designates the weekdays of Lent and Holy Week and all Fridays except in the seasons of Christmas and Easter as days of “special devotion” with “special acts of discipline and self-denial” (which normally include fasting). An exception is made for the feast of the Annunciation in Lent and feasts of our Lord on Friday. Although modern social habits have led to a decline in fasting on Fridays, and in Lent and Holy Week, the BCP calls for fasting, discipline, and self-denial on those days.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Fasting is more than fasting from food. Consider fasting from behavior and habits that get in the way of our love of God and our love of neighbor. Click here to explore.

Lectio Divina:

The term means, at root, the “reading of Holy Scripture.” In Jerome and in the Rule of St. Benedict, it meant the scriptural text itself, the lectio, the “lesson” or reading. In the middle ages it came to refer to the act of reading the Bible, the sacred text, for a sacred purpose. It was a principal ingredient of monastic spirituality. This monastic reading led to meditation and prayer, with wisdom and appreciation as its goals. It was distinguished from a scholastic reading, which led to questions and disputations, with science and knowledge as objectives. The ultimate end of lectio divina is compunction, the desire for heaven. The term is still used to mean the meditative and prayerful reading of the Bible for purposes of devotion, rather than for scholarly study.

The Daily Office:

Use of daily prayers to mark the times of the day and to express the traditions of the praying community is traditional in Judaism and in Christianity. The third, sixth, and ninth hours (9 a.m., 12 noon, and 3 p.m.) were times of private prayer in Judaism. The congregational or cathedral form of office developed in Christianity under Constantine (274 or 288-337) with the principal morning and evening services of lauds and vespers. The people participated in the cathedral form of office. The monastic form of office also developed at this time. In addition to lauds and vespers, the monastic form included matins (at midnight or cockcrow), prime (the first hour), terce (the third hour), sext (the sixth hour), none (the ninth hour), and compline (at bedtime). By the late middle ages, the Daily Office was seen as the responsibility of the monks and clergy rather than an occasion for participation by all in the prayers of the community throughout the day.

After the Anglican Reformation, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) reduced the eight monastic offices to the two services of Morning and Evening Prayer. These services were printed in vernacular English and intended for use by all members of the church. Participation in the Daily Office is at the heart of Anglican spirituality. It is the proper form of daily public worship in the church. In addition to forms for Daily Morning Prayer and Daily Evening Prayer in contemporary and traditional language, the BCP section for the Daily Office includes forms for Noonday Prayer, Order of Worship for the Evening, Compline, and Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families. These offices include prayers, a selection from the Psalter, readings from the Holy Scriptures, one or more canticles, and the Lord’s Prayer. Forms for Morning and Evening Prayer include an optional confession of sin. The BCP provides a Daily Office Lectionary that identifies readings and psalm choices for Morning and Evening Prayer (pp. 936-1001), and a Table of Canticles with suggested canticles for use at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (pp. 144-145). The officiant in the Daily Office may be a member of the clergy or a lay person.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Click here for online link to Daily Office readings from scripture. You can also subscribe to receive them via email. Or download the app on your smart phone!


A journey taken with a religious or devotional intention. Pilgrimages are typically made to shrines, holy places, or locations of religious significance. They may be made as prayers of thanksgiving, penitence, intercession, or petition. Pilgrimages have been practiced in many religious traditions, including Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Lk 2:41 records that Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. There are records of Christian pilgrimages dating from the second and third centuries. Christian pilgrims often journeyed to Jerusalem and Rome. Egeria, a fourth-century pilgrim to Jerusalem, described the Holy Week celebration that she witnessed. Shrines of the Blessed Virgin Mary, such as Lourdes in France and Walsingham in England, have been popular places of pilgrimage. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is a fictional account of stories told by pilgrims on their way to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. This shrine was one of the most popular places of pilgrimage until its destruction under Henry VIII. In modern times some penitential practices traditionally associated with pilgrimages are no longer encouraged by the church. Pilgrimage centers continue to provide an opportunity for retreat, renewal, and a journey of the heart.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Saws & Sawdust

Foot Washing:

The washing of feet was a menial act of hospitality in the Old Testament (see Gn 18:4, 19:2). It was often performed for guests by a servant or the wife of the host. The Gospel of John (13:1-17) records that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus urged the disciples to follow his example of generous and humble service. They should wash one another’s feet, as their feet had been washed by Jesus, their Lord and Teacher. Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet was a lived expression of his teaching that “whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all” (Mk 10:43-44). The foot-washing also expressed Jesus’ “new commandment” for his disciples to love one another, as he had loved them (Jn 13:34). The washing of feet continued in the early Christian church. The requirements for enrollment on the list of widows includes the expectation that a widow would have “washed the saints’ feet” (1 Tm 4:9-10). The ceremonial washing of feet is mentioned by Augustine of Hippo (354-430). The foot-washing has been associated with the Maundy Thursday liturgy since the seventh century in Spain. The name “Maundy” is from the Latin antiphon that was used on this day, based on Jesus’ “new commandment” of love on the Thursday before his death. The foot-washing has also been associated with baptism. In the ancient Gallican rites, the feet of the newly baptized were washed by the ranking prelate after baptism.

The early editions of the Prayer Book did not provide for the foot-washing. The 1979 BCP restored the washing of feet as an option for the Maundy Thursday service. The foot-washing follows the gospel and homily. Representatives of the congregation may be appointed to have their feet washed by the celebrant. The celebrant may be assisted by other ministers or acolytes. The BCP provides anthems that may be sung or said during the ceremony (pp. 274-275). Musical settings for these anthems are available in the Appendix of The Hymnal 1982 Accompaniment Edition, Vol. 1 (S 344-S 347). It is also traditional to use the hymn “Ubi Caritas” at the foot-washing (see Hymns 576, 577, 581, 606). The Book of Occasional Services provides a brief address that may be used by the celebrant to introduce the ceremony of foot-washing. This statement recalls Jesus’ teaching that “strength and growth in the life of the Kingdom of God come not by power, authority, or even miracle, but by such lowly service” as the washing of feet.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


Prayer in which we confess our sins and make restitution where possible, with the intention to amend our lives (BCP, p. 857). The Prayer Book Catechism identifies penitence as one of the seven principal kinds of prayer (p. 856). In the sacramental rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent, those who repent of their sins may confess them to God in the presence of a priest and receive the assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution (p. 861). The BCP provides two forms for the Reconciliation of a Penitent (pp. 447-452). The season of Lent is a penitential season of preparation for the Easter celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. At the Ash Wednesday service, the celebrant invites the people to the observance of a holy Lent “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (pp. 264-265). The Ash Wednesday service includes a Litany of Penitence (pp. 267-269). Many Prayer Book liturgies also include a confession of sin. The confession of sin and absolution follow the prayers of the people and precede the peace at the eucharist (BCP, pp. 331, 360). Another option is for the eucharist to begin with a Penitential Order (pp. 319-321, 351-353). The Penitential Order includes an acclamation and the confession of sin and absolution. It may also include the decalogue and one or more appropriate sentences of scripture. Compline includes a confession of sin and prayer for absolution (BCP, pp. 127-128). Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer may include a confession of sin and absolution (pp. 41-42, 62-63, 79-80, 116-117).

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

The Reconciliation of a Penitent:

Sacramental rite in which those who repent may confess their sins to God in the presence of a priest and receive the assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution (BCP, p. 861). It is also called penance and confession. The church’s ministry of reconciliation is from God, “who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18). The ministry of reconciliation has been committed by Christ to the church. It is exercised through the care each Christian has for others, through the common prayer of Christians assembled for public worship, and through the priesthood of the church and its ministers declaring absolution (BCP, p. 446). The Reconciliation of a Penitent is not limited to times of sickness. Confessions may be heard at any time and any place.

The BCP provides two forms of service for the Reconciliation of a Penitent. Only a bishop or priest may pronounce absolution. A declaration of forgiveness may be used by a deacon or lay person who hears a confession. When a confession is heard in a church building, the confessor may sit inside the altar rails while the penitent kneels nearby. The confession may be heard in a place set aside for greater privacy. It is also appropriate for the confessor and penitent to sit face to face for a spiritual conference that leads to absolution or a declaration of forgiveness. After the penitent has confessed all serious sins troubling the conscience and given evidence of contrition, the priest offers counsel and encouragement before pronouncing absolution. Before pronouncing absolution, the priest may assign a psalm, prayer, or hymn to be said, or something to be done, as a sign or penitence and act of thanksgiving.

The 1979 BCP is the first American Prayer Book to provide forms for the Reconciliation of a Penitent as a separate office. Form One (p. 447) is shorter and less elaborate than Form Two (p. 449), which includes material similar to the Byzantine form for confession. Form Two begins with verses from Psalm 51 and the Trisagion, and it includes scriptural words of comfort. A rubric in Form Two also directs that the priest lay a hand upon the penitent’s head or extend a hand over the penitent at the absolution. This gesture also may be used at the absolution in Form One. The secrecy of the confession is morally absolute for the confessor and must not be broken (BCP, p. 446).

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Hammers & Nails

Days of Abstinence:

Days when Christians traditionally abstained from eating meat. Roman Catholics prior to Vatican Council II distinguished fast days on which the quantity of food consumed was reduced (e.g., the weekdays of Lent), and days of abstinence on which meat was not eaten (e.g., Fridays). The 1928 BCP in its table of fasts listed “other days of fasting on which the Church requires such a measure of abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion.” These included the forty days of Lent, the ember days, and Fridays. No distinction was made between fasting and abstinence. The 1979 BCP dropped the ember days from the list and refers to both Lenten weekdays and Fridays outside of the Christmas and Easter seasons as Days of Special Devotion “observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial” (p. 17). While this permits the traditional observance of Days of Abstinence, it clearly leaves the nature of the special acts of discipline and self-denial to the individual.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Black Fast:

The custom of observing the two great Prayer Book fast days, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, by eating no food at all. This was observed as a pious custom by some devout church people in the nineteenth century in imitation of the fasting of the ancient church.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


It is almsgiving—taking up—that makes the giving up work. Almsgiving is understood as giving money or good, to aid the poor, but in a broader context almsgiving can also be understood to include other kinds of charitable acts of service. We take up works of charity (almsgiving) in order to walk more clearly the path of service and love the Lord calls us to walk. In this regard, we remove the excess by giving up in order to engage more freely in what we are really called to do. 

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

The Way of the Cross:

A devotion to the Passion of Christ which recalls a series of events at the end of Jesus’ life from his condemnation to his burial. The Way of the Cross imitates the practice of visiting the places of Jesus’ Passion in the Holy Land by early Christian pilgrims. The first stations outside Palestine were built in Bologna in the fifth century. This devotion was encouraged by the Franciscans, and it became common in the fifteenth century.

The number of stations for prayer and meditation in the Way of the Cross has varied, but it typically includes fourteen stations. Each station may have a cross and an artistic representation of the scene. The stations may be erected inside a church or outdoors. The Book of Occasional Services includes the following stations in the Way of the Cross: 1) Jesus is condemned to death; 2) Jesus takes up his cross; 3) Jesus falls the first time; 4) Jesus meets his afflicted mother; 5) the cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene; 6) a woman wipes the face of Jesus; 7) Jesus falls a second time; 8) Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem; 9) Jesus falls a third time; 10) Jesus is stripped of his garments; 11) Jesus is nailed to the cross; 12) Jesus dies on the cross; 13) the body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother; 14) Jesus is laid in the tomb. The BOS notes that eight of the stations are based on events that are recorded in the gospels. The remaining six (stations 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 13) are based on inferences from the gospels or pious legends.

The BOS allows these six stations to be omitted from the Way of the Cross. The BOS provides opening devotions and the Lord’s Prayer. There is a versicle and response, a reading, a prayer, and a collect for each of the fourteen stations. Concluding prayers before the altar follow the fourteenth station in the BOS service.

The hymn Stabat Mater has been associated with the Way of the Cross. Verses of this hymn traditionally have been sung between each of the stations when the devotion is done by a congregation. The Stabat Mater appears as “At the cross her vigil keeping,” Hymn 159 in The Hymnal 1982. The BOS suggests that verses of this hymn be sung as the ministers enter for the Way of the Cross and as they approach the first station. The BOS also suggests that the Trisagion be chanted as the procession goes from station to station. The Way of the Cross is a popular devotion that is often done on Fridays during Lent. However, it should not displace the Proper Liturgy for Good Friday. Some have questioned its disassociation of Jesus’ death from his resurrection.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Click here for an illustrated PDF booklet of the Way of the Cross.

Shout High from the Rooftops


A liturgical expression of praise, “Praise ye the Lord,” from the Hebrew Hallelujah. The BCP states that Alleluia is omitted during Lent.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Easter Eggs:

Eggs, in general, are a traditional symbol of fertility and rebirth, in Christianity, for the celebration of Eastertide, Easter eggs symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus,  from which Jesus was resurrected. In addition, one ancient tradition is the staining of Easter eggs with the color red “in memory of the blood of Christ, shed at the time of his crucifixion.”

This custom of the Easter egg, according to many sources, can be traced to early Christians of Mesopotamia, and from there it spread into Eastern Europe and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches, and later into Europe through the Catholic and Protestant Churches. Mediaevalist scholars normally conclude that the custom of Easter eggs has its roots in the prohibition of eggs during Lent after which, on Easter, they are blessed for the occasion.


Check out Haye’s Willingham’s The Easter Egg Painter: Process & Progress.

Easter Vigil:

(This definition is provided FYI. Easter is celebrated Sunday morning at Emmanuel at 8:00 a.m. & 10:00 a.m.)

Also known as the Great Vigil. The service begins in darkness, sometime between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter, and consists of four parts: The Service of Light (kindling of new fire, lighting the Paschal candle, the Exsultet); The Service of Lessons (readings from the Hebrew Scriptures interspersed with psalms, canticles, and prayers); Christian Initiation (Holy Baptism) or the Renewal of Baptismal Vows; and the Eucharist. Through this liturgy, the BCP recovers an ancient practice of keeping the Easter feast. Believers would gather in the hours of darkness ending at dawn on Easter to hear scripture and offer prayer. This night-long service of prayerful watching anticipated the baptisms that would come at first light and the Easter Eucharist. Easter was the primary baptismal occasion for the early church to the practical exclusion of all others. This practice linked the meanings of Christ’s dying and rising to the understanding of baptism.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Easter Sunday, Feast of the Resurrection:

The feast of Christ’s resurrection. According to Bede, the word derives from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess Eostre. Christians in England applied the word to the principal festival of the church year, both day and season. 1) Easter Day is the annual feast of the resurrection, the pascha or Christian Passover, and the eighth day of cosmic creation. Faith in Jesus’ resurrection on the Sunday or third day following his crucifixion is at the heart of Christian belief. Easter sets the experience of springtime next to the ancient stories of deliverance and the proclamation of the risen Christ.

In the west, Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the full moon on or after the vernal equinox. Easter always falls between March 22 and April 25. Following Jewish custom, the feast begins at sunset on Easter Eve with the Great Vigil of Easter. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on the first Sunday after the Jewish pesach or Passover (which follows the spring full moon). Although the two dates sometimes coincide, the eastern date is often one or more weeks later.

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Sacrament (Baptism):

This is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the church. God establishes an indissoluble bond with each person in baptism. God adopts us, making us members of the church and inheritors of the Kingdom of God (BCP, pp. 298, 858). In baptism we are made sharers in the new life of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins. Baptism is the foundation for all future church participation and ministry. Each candidate for baptism in the Episcopal Church is to be sponsored by one or more baptized persons.

Sponsors (godparents) speak on behalf of candidates for baptism who are infants or younger children and cannot speak for themselves at the Presentation and Examination of the Candidates. During the baptismal rite the members of the congregation promise to do all they can to support the candidates for baptism in their life in Christ. They join with the candidates by renewing the baptismal covenant. The water of baptism may be administered by immersion or affusin (pouring) (BCP, p. 307). Candidates are baptized “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and then marked on the forehead with the sign of the cross. Chrism may be used for this marking. The newly baptized is “sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever.” When all baptisms have been completed, the celebrant and congregation welcome the newly administered within the eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or another feast.

The Catechism notes that “Infants are baptized so that they can share citizenship in the Covenant, membership in Christ, and redemption by God.” The baptismal promises are made for infants by their parents or sponsors, “who guarantee that the infants will be brought up within the Church, to know Christ and be able to follow him” (BCP, pp. 858-859). Baptism is especially appropriate at the Easter Vigil, the Day of Pentecost, All Saint’s Day or the Sunday following, and the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (the First Sunday after the Epiphany).

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Sacrament (Holy Eucharist):

The sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, and the principal act of Christian worship. The term is from the Greek, “thanksgiving.” Jesus instituted the eucharist “on the night when he was betrayed.” At the Last Supper he shared the bread and cup of wine at a sacred meal with his disciples. He identified the bread with his body and the wine with his blood of the new covenant. Jesus commanded his disciples to “do this” in remembrance of him (see 1 Cor 11:23-26; Mk 14:22-25; Mt 26:26-29; Lk 22:14-20). Christ’s sacrifice is made present by the eucharist, and in it we are united to his one self-offering (BCP, p. 859). The Last Supper provides the basis for the fourfold eucharistic action of taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing. Christ’s body and blood are really present in the sacrament of the eucharist and received by faith. Christ’s presence is also known in the gathered eucharistic community.

In the BCP, the whole service is entitled the Holy Eucharist. The first part of the service is designated the Word of God. It usually includes the entrance rite, the lessons and gradual psalm, the gospel, the sermon, the Nicene Creed, the prayers of the people, the confession of sin and absolution, and the peace. The second portion of the service is designated the Holy Communion. It includes the offertory, the consecration of the bread and wine in the Great Thanksgiving, the communion of the people, and the concluding prayers of thanksgiving and dismissal. A blessing may be given prior to the dismissal.

The eucharist is also called the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Divine Liturgy, the Mass, and the Great Offertory (BCP, p. 859). The Hymnal 1982 includes a section with a variety of hymns for the Holy Eucharist (300-347), including “Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest” (305-306), “My God, thy table now is spread” (321), “Now, my tongue, the mystery telling” (329-331), and “I am the bread of life” (335).

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


Click on links to engage and explore music for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter in the interactive hymnals below.

May you find God and God find you each of these forty days. I look forward to seeing you all when I return from sabbatical on Maundy Thursday!

Soli Deo Gratia,


Lent Spirituality The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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