We may not think about it, but Lent is actually one of the more sensory-focused seasons of the liturgical year. During Lent, we intentionally remove extra decorations from the sanctuary. Some parishes will remove all flowers or banners. Others will create small desert-scapes with bare tree branches, rocks or empty pots. We do this so that our eyes will find minimal distractions as we gaze at the cross, or at the Host during the moment of consecration. The purple vestments and altar cloths also clue us in to the shift in mood.
In Lent the music changes. Many parishes will use a separate Mass setting (the Gospel Acclamation, Holy, Holy, Holy, Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen), typically in a minor key.
We also use less music. We avoid any music that is not in support of singing. Silence is prioritized.
Incense is used a lot during Lent, especially during the Triduum. Incense is used not only as a blessing but also as a reminder that our prayers rise like incense to God (Psalms 141:2).
If our parish has catechumens (people who desire to be baptized) and/or candidates (people already baptized but still seeking Eucharist or Confirmation), there are a series of scrutinies that happen during Lent. At these moments, the candidates and catechumens, along with their sponsors or godparents, come before the congregation for special blessings and sending forth as they journey through the final stages of their formation before the Easter Vigil. Each time, their sponsor or godparent(s) places their hand on their shoulder, symbolizing their connection with the whole community. During the Triduum, we celebrate the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday. We are also invited to venerate the Cross with a touch or kiss on Good Friday.
During Lent we deny our sense of taste by abstaining from meat on Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Perhaps your parish will have a fish fry or simple soup suppers?
I love how sensory our Church is. Some of our most ancient traditions are physical in nature — namely, of course, the Eucharist. Lectio Divina is another ancient prayer form the Church has used for generations. The practice of praying the Scriptures aloud provides a sensory experience which can soften our hearts to God’s call. When we pray in the lectio format, we read the Scripture verse or passage aloud. Using not just our eyes, but also our mouth and ears offers us a triple-sense moment with God’s Word. If you are interested in trying out Lectio Divina this Lent, I am offering a completely FREE Lent Lectio Divina Journal for you to print and use.
Copyright Kate Taliaferro 2018