As an artist and the coordinator of my parish’s Liturgical Arts ministry, I spend time thinking about ways to make our sanctuary area inviting and engaging for each distinct Liturgical season of the year. Our sanctuary area has a large dark blue wall behind the altar and crucifix that serves as a large ‘canvas’ to spread our seasonal items across. Such a large space can be daunting to adequately fill, but we have a storage room filled with different materials- fabrics, ribbons, wall papers, and much more at our disposal to help make each season meaningful.
Shortly after the new year began, church staff met to discuss Lent and the ways we could prepare ahead of time to make it a fruitful season for all who will visit or attend Mass. We decided to build off of our Advent theme, “Dispel the Darkness and Welcome the Light”. The Nativity stars filled the top portion of the back wall, with a particularly large one that carried over from Advent into the Christmas season as we welcomed the newborn light of Christ in the manger.
Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. – Joel 2:12-13
As we move into the season of Lent, we consider the ideas, words, and other associations that come to mind during this penitential season. Yesterday, many flooded to churches and received the visible symbol of the fleeting nature of our lives. We are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return. The turning away from a variety of things, material and otherwise, enables me to reorient myself to Jesus and His sacrifice for me on the cross. We suffer to remember how He suffered. Lent provides that annual ‘reset’ to help deepen my practices of prayer and ‘give up’ things that are obstructing my relationship with God. We remove that which holds us back from a true and full relationship with Jesus. We seek to add in that which will draw us ever closer to Him; deeper prayer and reflection on the scriptures, for example.
Peeking ahead to the various Gospel readings for the Sundays of Lent, I love that we will hear about many of Jesus’ miracles. As I reorient myself to Jesus, I will reflect on the ways that He continues to perform miracles today, in my own life and the lives of those who I know and love. One story we’ll hear is the Transfiguration of Jesus atop Mount Tabor. Jesus ascended the mountaintop and there, at the top, his clothes became bright and dazzling white and He shone in the fullness of His glory.
Now, in our church, as Lent begins, the sanctuary will be sparsely decorated as a reminder of the need to strip back and declutter our lives. We’ll use various shades of purple and some white fabric or ribbons stretched along the wall and crisscrossed over each other to represent our Lenten journey, and at the end, the fabric will rise slightly in a mountain-like peak to remind us of what we are moving towards – the light of Christ, dispelling the darkness, shining brightly for us on Easter morning.
As the psalm says, “if today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts”. Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus. We are never too far from Him. Turn – or return – to Him this Lenten season. Let us take time to reflect on moments of His life, particularly moments along His way to the top of Mount Calvary (Stations of the Cross). Reflect on the truth that He gave Himself fully for each one of us. May we celebrate with great joy the resurrection of Jesus, and of our own resurrected lives as we welcome the light of Christ ever more deeply into our hearts.
Copyright 2020 @ Sara Caporaletti