Our Lady & All Saints Catholic Church, Otley
Our Lenten Cross
For the past 9 or so years we have placed a wooden cross on the Sanctuary at the beginning of Lent, and each Sunday added items to it. Our liturgy of this Lenten Cross contains much symbolism.
The cross itself is very simple and rough, made from a Christmas Tree from a previous year, linking the culmination of the Lenten liturgy - the Triumph of Easter - to the start of our redemption - the Incarnation.
The bare cross is placed on the Sanctuary on Ash Wednesday. Each Sunday, for the next five weeks, the start of the Mass is modified to incorporate the liturgy of the Lenten Cross. The usual simple entrance from the Sacristy is replaced by a more solemn procession from the back of the church. A member of the congregation walks in front of the celebrant, carrying an object that is to be added to the cross that day. This object is an item associated with the Passion of Our Lord. Following the entrance hymn, a short gospel passage related to the object being carried is read, after which the item is hung on the cross. The Mass then continues as usual with the Penitential Rite.
On the 1st Sunday the object is a bag or pouch, containing some coins - reminding us of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot; on the 2nd Sunday, a purple cloth - a reminder that when Christ was interrogated a "rich cloak" was placed on him by the guards to show Herod's contempt of him; on the 3rd Sunday, a crown of thorns (or its modern-day equivalent, a crown woven from barbed wire) - recalling that the Praetorium guards made fun of Jesus, kneeling before him and hailing him as "the King of the Jews"; on the 4th Sunday, three large nails -nails that were used to cruelly pin Jesus to the cross, and on which he hung for three painful hours before his death; finally, on the 5th Sunday, the notice written by Pilate - INRI, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", perhaps a belated personal acknowledgment by Pilate of the innocent person his troops had just crucified.
The completed cross remains on the Sanctuary throughout the next 2 weeks, a stark reminder of Christ's suffering on our behalf.
On Easter Day, the gloom and despondency is dispelled. The Lenten Cross is no longer a sombre reminder of Christ's Passion. All the items hung on the cross over the previous weeks have gone, to be replaced by a glorious display of flowers, predominantly yellow and white. These are colours traditionally associated with new life, a new beginning, and turn our Lenten Cross into the Tree of Life. Beneath the altar, a scene showing the tomb -not a closed grave, but an open cave, victoriously empty.
The victory is not the Passion and Death of Jesus, but the Christ's glorious Resurrection and triumph over death.
The Liturgy Group