In the middle of Lent, as is historically the case in the middle of Advent, there is a slight reprieve from the full penitential nature of the seasons. In both Advent and Lent, the names of these middle two Sundays  are Gaudete and Laetare, respectively, both of which mean “rejoice!” Even in the midst of the contrite  seasons, there is cause for rejoicing! “Rejoice” Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. It is the 4th Sunday in Lent. This year the 4th Sunday in Lent will be on March 10th. The purpose of this Newsletter article is to inform you about a change you will see on that Sunday. New paraments will adorn the chancel and sanctuary. The color will be ecclesiastically foreign to you. Most people will call it “pink”, but liturgically it is known as “rose”.

The setting for this color scheme is most visible during Advent. Most people are aware that there are three blue (or violet) candles and one pink or “rose” candle on the Advent wreath. Much fewer people realize that the paraments on the altar, pulpit, and lectern are supposed to match whatever color candle is lit that particular week. (Technically it’s the other way around; the candles match the paraments.) On the two “rejoice” Sundays henceforth, you will now see rose paraments. Unlike Advent, Lent does not have a wreath, though I am considering how we can visually display the six Lenten Sundays with another candelabra-type object. I digress.

In addition to the visual change you will observe with the paraments, at the beginning of both worship services on March 10th you will also participate in the Rite of the Blessing of Paraments (Agenda, p. 298-299). Many older Lutherans hear the word “Blessing” and think it sounds Roman Catholic. When I was in Seminary, admittedly I was not thrilled when we had a blessing of new paraments, begrudgingly accusing the Seminary of “Papist stuff”. I repent of my ignorance. Instead, whenever a blessing occurs, whether it’s on the heads of those not yet confirmed in the faith at the altar rails or in the Benediction at the end of the Divine Service, it imparts God’s blessing on His people. It is no different with things. Things, too, can be blessed, that is, set aside for God’s holy use. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:4-5, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” – now the important words in this context – “for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

A Rite of blessing uses the word of God and prayer to make holy people, things, places, etc. Holy, in its broadest definition, means belonging to God. Consider the opening words of the blessing following the Invocation from the Agenda:

“Beloved in the Lord: ‘The LORD reigns; He is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; He has put on strength as His belt.” “Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary” (Ps 93:1, 96:6). It is fitting therefore that we implore the Lord’s blessing as we clothe the altar of His sanctuary from which He strengths and preserves us in true faith.”

The Rite continues with familiar words from the liturgy: “Our help is in the name of the Lord” to which the congregation responds, “who made heaven and earth.” The standard salutation comes next (“The Lord be with you / and with your spirit”), and, as is typical in the liturgy, prayer follows the salutation:

“O Lord God Almighty, You instructed Moses Your servant to make hangings and fine linens for use in Your tabernacle. We implore You to sanctify [this/these name of item(s) to be blessed] for the adornment of Your Church; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and Holy Spirit, one God,
now and forever. Amen.”

The Rite uses the Word of God. The Rite uses prayer. It fulfills 1 Timothy 4:4-5 as noted above. The last thing to do is the blessing itself: “The Lord Almighty, the Father, the ╬ Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless [this/these name of item(s) to be blessed.] Amen.”

As you can see, the Rite of blessing simply commends what we are using in God’s house to He who is truly present with us in Word and Sacrament. I pray the new paraments are a blessing to all who come to the Divine Service at Zion, that they may be beneficial in the catechesis of all Jesus’ disciples. I also pray they nurture a greater love for the Church Year, which beautifully gives us God’s Word in season and out of season in the lectionary.

Finally, feel free to dress the part. As many of you already do on Reformation and Pentecost (red), and Christmas and Easter (white), feel free to wear your “rose” on these Sundays, mirroring the chancel colors in the pews. It is a wonderful way to “rejoice” in all the gifts God gives!

Your servant in Christ,
Pr. Hromowyk

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