The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday – the day after Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. The date of Lent changes each year depending on the date of Easter.

Christians attend church on Ash Wednesday in order to confess their sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. Ashes mark the foreheads of worshippers as a symbol of penitence.

This solemn day also marks the start of six weeks of prayer and fasting. Many Christians may choose to give up something they enjoy such as meat, alcohol, chocolate or TV, and try to live more simply. Many Christians also give money or time to charitable causes; do good deeds for the benefit of others; and devote time to prayer and study of the Scriptures.

Often they may fail in their resolve and need to try again, and that is part of the Lenten journey. This season is not about trying to earn God’s favour – they believe he loves them anyway – but rather to learn to live with more attentiveness to God and other people.

Some Christians seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) during this time.

The main Lenten colour is purple and the clergy wear purple vestments (special garments) for Holy Communion. During Lent there are no flowers in the cathedral. The joyful hymn ‘The Gloria’ in not sung, except on certain Feast days.

Christians remember two periods of Jesus Christ’s life during Lent.

Key weeks in Lent

  • On the first Sunday of Lent, they hear the story of Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for 40 days of fasting as he prepared for public ministry.
  • ‘Mothering Sunday’ or ‘Refreshment Sunday’ is sometimes marked on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This is a lighter moment within the Lenton journey.
  • ‘Passion Sunday’ is the fifth Sunday in Lent, and is the start of preparations to mark Jesus’ last days on earth.

Holy Week

Holy Week is the final week before Easter. The colour for this week is red. The week begins on Palm Sunday when Christians remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday of Holy Week. The clergy of the diocese gather with the Bishop for the blessing of oils. These oils will be used over the following year. In the evening, there is a special Liturgy of Maundy Thursday. During this service, Christians recall Jesus’ last supper with his friends and his gift of Holy Communion.

Candles are extinguished and the altar is stripped bare during the later parts of this service, which concludes with a silent Watch. The following day is the solemn fast of Good Friday – the day on which Christians remember the death of Jesus. There is an ecumenical Walk of Witness around the city. This is followed by a special vigil service in the cathedral from 1200 – 1500. This is to help Christians recall Jesus’ death on the cross.

Holy Saturday/Easter Eve is a day of quiet reflection and preparation. During a special vigil service the Paschal (Easter) Candle is lit from a fire outside and brought into the cathedral. This celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Candidates may be baptised and confirmed; and the first Eucharist of Easter is celebrated.

The Church enters the season of Easter and there are joyful services on Easter Day and throughout the Easter Season.