Ash Wednesday is coming this week, which heralds the season of Lent. Since we celebrate according to the traditional calendar, we have already begun some of our Lenten observances. Traditionally, the "Lenten cycle" begins a bit before Ash Wednesday with the season called Septuagesima. This season is composed of three weeks: Sepusagesima (referring to it's falling roughly 70 days before Easter), Sexagesima ("60 days"), and Quinquagesima ("50 days"--the Sunday before Ash Wednesday). These three weeks mark a transition toward the penitential season to come. At Mass, the Alleluia and Gloria are already skipped, and the liturgical color has already changed to violet. But the tone is not yet somber--it gives us time to consider our penances and to prepare our minds and hearts toward Our Lord and His Passion. And for the home-educating mother, it gives us time to bake our salt-dough-crown of thorns and figure out where we stored the Stations of the Cross box from last year. ;)
There are plenty of lovely websites detailing the many ways this holy season can be made real for little ones, so I'll just share briefly how we'll be marking our Lenten journey. (You can see last year's plans here. You'll see they're much the same as this year's plans. I love that I don't have to reinvent everything with each new year now that we have family traditions in place!)
:: Burying the Alleluia. I just love this tradition. At our old parish, they actually did bury it--right outside the chapel in the garden, following the Septuagesima liturgy. At our home, I just tuck our adorned Alleluias into a box. The box gets put away, then wrapped and placed on our Easter breakfast table. The children open it on Easter morning and process with their Alleluias around the house before hanging them on our home altar. It's quite festive. :)
:: Lenten Reading. I'll be slowly reading Inos Biffi's The Way of the Cross with the children this Lent. I personally am looking forward to reading I Believe In Love and Sermons of St. Francis de Sales of Lent. My children will go through a spiritual book of their choice--I think they'll be trading off with King of the Golden City. We'll also be revisiting Jenn's "Lent: A Thought a Day" once again this year. It makes a perfect Lenten addition to our Morning Basket. (As does this calendar, a favorite with my children every year!)
:: Memory Work. As during Advent, our memory work takes on a Lenten transformation. Last year, we learned "O Sacred Head Surrounded" and the Prayer Before a Crucifix. This year, we'll be learning the Stabat Mater in Latin and English and the De Profundis (Psalm 129) in English.
:: Stations of the Cross. I think most Catholic families would consider this an essential part of Lenten Fridays. I like to pray the Stations with our Stations box, which has been a big hit with all my children. We use the meditations from a couple vintage pamphlets I picked up that are the very same as the ones Jenn has shared. They are truly lovely.
:: Crown of Thorns. This is a wonderful tangible analogy for sacrifice--as we remove a thorn from Our Lord's crown with each sacrifice we make, so our good deeds bring comfort to Our Lord's Heart in His Passion. We did a personal one for each of the children last year and they really enjoyed it, so we'll be doing that again this time around.
:: Fasting and Sacrifices. We all have special sacrifices we're offering up in the hope of drawing closer to Our Lord during these forty days by entering into a "desert" as He did.
These traditions will carry us through the next few weeks until we get to Holy Week, which has a beautiful set of traditions of its own.
Wishing you a blessed start to Lent!