Music and Liturgy ideas for Lent

The season of Lent can often feel like a period of “austerity measures and government cuts“. Not unlike the ones we have become increasingly accustomed to in these days of financial evolution.

Music and liturgy ideas for lent into the wilderness

Perhaps it’s more helpful though to think of it as a period of investment, in preparation for the great spiritual return at Eastertide. If we enter deeply into these days of reconciliation and renewal, the joy and hope of the Resurrection can be experienced more deeply too.

For most of us, our Sunday Masses will be key milestones of this Lenten journey. Here are a few musical ideas that might help set the tone for the season.

1. A sung Penitential Act
During Ordinary Time we tend to encourage a sung Gloria and spoken Penitential Act, to maintain the musical balance of the Opening Rites of the Mass.  The season of Lent is a perfect for a sung Penitential Rite – not only because the Gloria is omitted – but also because it so beautifully reflects the spirit of the season.  The plaintive, minor intervals of the setting from the Mass of the Holy Trinity seem particularly apt.  It can be used with the spoken invocations as recorded with Archbishop Bernard Longley on Rejoice n Sing Vol. 3, or as a straight call and response.

Listen now: Mass of the Holy Trinity – Penitential Act

2. Singing the Responsorial Psalm
The Responsorial Psalms for Sunday’s in Lent are like a soundtrack for the season. The beautiful texts echo themes of God’s mercy and compassion, and our need for repentance and conversion. If your parish (or school) has not yet developed the tradition of a sung (rather than spoken) Reponsorial Psalm, this Lent would be the perfect time to change that.

Click here to listen to our Responsorial Psalms for Lent, Year A
Click here to listen to our Responsorial Psalms for Lent, Year B
Click here to listen to our Responsorial Psalms for Lent, Year C
Click here to listen to our Common Responsorial Psalms for Lent

3. Instrumental Music at the Preparation of the Gifts
Another simple way to create a different mood and sense of season would be to have instrumental music rather than the usual “offertory song”. The Responsorial Psalm itself would be a perfect candidate for an instrumental reprise. Hearing it again will subconsciously call to mind the text and the words will hopefully resound in the hearts of the congregation as they prepare for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

If you tend to opt for a song about “bread and wine”, just avoiding those for a while and sticking with more Lent focussed songs will make a great difference.

4. Use the same Acclamations throughout the Season
Using the same Mass Setting throughout the 5 Sundays of Lent is another powerful way to evoke a sense of season. Choose acclamations which are a little bit more “muted” in mood – like the St Joseph’s the Worker Acclamations from Rejoice n Sing Vol. 3 – so that you can later create contrast with a lively, more upbeat setting during Eastertide.


Any other suggestions? Please join the conversation and share you own thoughts and ideas in the comments below…