The season of Lent is a time of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus's withdrawal into the wilderness for prayer and meditation.
The season of Lent begins with the observance of Ash Wednesday, in which we receive the imposition of ashes as a sign of repentance. Today Lent is used as a time to remember our Baptism rather than just a time of sorrow.
The altar is dressed in purple cloths during this season.
Holy Week begins on Palm (or Passion) Sunday with a special service remembering Jesus's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This is the first service of the week in which we anticipate the celebration of the Lord's passage from death to new life. Jesus's washing of the disciples' feet symbolized his commandment to love one another. The Maundy Thursday service remembers this and other events of the Last Supper. The stripping of the altar is the culmination of this service as worshippers are asked to leave the sanctuary in silence.
The Good Friday service, which begins as the night darkens the skies, is focused on remembering Christ's passion, his death and sacrifice for us. At this service, worshippers are given the opportunity to contemplate the meaning of the cross in their lives. It is a solemn service; the altar and a rough hewn cross are draped in black.
An Easter Vigil or Holy Saturday service may also be held.