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How the liturgy changes in Lent

Like other liturgical seasons, Lent has its own special rules and practices. But did you know there are certain things that should not be done in Lent? Catholic News highlights four shifts in the liturgical tone of the Lenten season.

1- Instrumental music with no singing

While the playing of instrumental music such as the organ or other musical instruments are allowed during Mass in order to support the singing, it is omitted during Lent. However, there are exceptions. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states:

313 …the use of musical instruments is allowed only so to support the singing. Nevertheless, Laetare Sunday (the Fourth Sunday to Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts are exceptions to this rule.

2- Singing or saying the Gloria

Just after Sunday Mass begins, it is common to sing or say the Gloria (Glory to God in the highest). However, Barbara Lake, Manager, Liturgical Commission of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain told Catholic News that the Gloria—a celebratory Song of Angels is not sung during Lent except on the Solemnities of St Joseph and the Annunciation. Msgr Michael de Verteuil, the Archdiocese’s Chair of the Liturgical Commission further explained because Lent is a penitential season and the Church is in a “repentant mode”, seeking conversion, it is not a time of rejoicing. Thus, the acclamations of joy (The Alleluia and the Gloria) are “dropped” to be sung with greater joy and enthusiasm at Easter.

The General Instruction states:

  1. The Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) is a most ancient and venerable hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb. The texts of this hymn may not be replaced by any other. It is intoned by the Priest or, if appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir; but it is sung either by everyone together, or by the people alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone. If not sung, it is to be recited either by everybody together or by two choirs responding one to the other. It is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, and also on Solemnities and Feasts, and at particular celebrations of a more solemn character.

3- Singing or saying the Alleluia before the gospel

During most of the year Catholics sing or say the Alleluia before the reading of the gospel. However, this is not permitted in Lent.

The General Instruction states:

  1. a) The Alleluia is sung in every time of year other than Lent. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the Graduale.
  2. b) During Lent, instead of the Alleluia, the Verse before the Gospel as given in the Lectionary is sung. It is also possible to sing another Psalm or Tract, as found in the Graduale.

4- Flowers on the altar

Though it is common for the altar to be decorated with flowers during most of the year, moderation should be observed in the decoration of the altar during Lent.

The General Instruction states:

  1. During Lent it is forbidden for the altar to be decorated with flowers. Exceptions, however, are LaetareSunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts. Floral decoration should always show moderation and be arranged around the altar rather than on the altar table.