Worship Aids
Liturgy for Lent


This page covers liturgy related to Lent, excluding Ash Wednesday and Holy Week (which have their own pages).

The page is divided into two main sections:

If you have not reviewed the general information on planning liturgy, worship appointments, etc., please do so at our Worship Aids page.

If you are looking for matters related to worship appointments (e.g., colors, candles, decorations, etc.), visit the Appointments for Lent page.

Making It Simple

We provide here downloadable MS-Word templates of the liturgy that you can easily copy & paste into your own bulletin and modify for local usage. These templates have the names of the elements of the worship service accompanied by their respective page numbers. They are not fully-printed services, as providing that would be a copyright infringement. This format can be used in accompaniment with your hymnals.

When a layperson leads the worship service, some modifications are required; these can be reviewed on our Liturgical Modifications for Lay Leadership page.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)
With One Voice (1995)
Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)
Morning Prayer (Matins)

Morning Prayer (Matins)
Service of the Word
Service of the Word and Prayer
Service of the Word
Holy Communion without Holy Communion (Ante-Communion)

Holy Communion (Mass)
Holy Communion (Mass)
Holy Communion (Mass)

Evening Prayer

Special Notes

Alleluias, the Gloria, and the Dignus est

Alleluia is neither said nor sung during lent. An exception to this is the recitation of psalms in which the word Hallelujah appears, as this is part of the biblical text.

Neither the Gloria nor the Dignus est ("This is the feast...Worthy is Christ...") are used during Lent, even on communion Sundays.


Processions may be suspended during Lent. That said, the construction of the sanctuary may make it impossible for the chancel party or choir to reach their places without passing through the midst of the assembly. Alternatives include
  • entering in procession in silence,
  • using a side aisle rather than the central aisle,
  • employing a Lenten processional such as Attende Domine, a litany, or a Lenten introit, or
  • having members of the chancel party simply take their places as they are individually ready.
If there is no procession, there should be no recession. If there is a modified procession, the recession should match.

Weddings, Baptisms, and Confirmation

Historically, weddings were not held during Lent. That said, few couples consider this in their planning, and most people simply won't want to maintain this discipline—though more than a few will make sure not to schedule a wedding for the same day as a WVU football game. At the very least, weddings should not be done during Holy Week. Even if there is little concern for the somber and solemn nature of that week, it should be remembered that the clergy, altar guild, musicians, and custodians are more than a little occupied with the religious observances of that week.

With respect to baptism, the first division is between infants and non-infants.

  • In the case of non-infants, baptism should be administered at the Easter Vigil (or soon into the Easter season). If, however, the baptismal candidate is in periculo mortis (danger of death), baptism should not be withheld but immediately as an emergency baptism. If you can schedule the baptism for a Sunday morning, it is not an emergency; wait until the vigil, and use the season of Lent as a time of catechesis.
  • In the case of infants, baptism should not be postponed, assuming the infant is being brought to the font soon after birth. If the infant is already several months old, e.g., there seems to be little reason not to wait until the end of Lent.
Among some Lutherans, Palm Sunday was the traditional day for confirmations. This was done so that the confirmands might commune on Easter Sunday. N.B., there are a few things behind this that no longer pertain: 1) Holy Communion was usually administered four times a year; 2) one could not commune until one was confirmed. As children are admitted to the table before confirmation, and communion is often administered with greater frequency, holding confirmation on Palm Sunday is no longer justifiable, especially given the way in which it can overshadow the central themes of the day.


Responsory for LentResponsory for Vespers

Looking for a little something extra to enrich your vespers service? Consider inserting the Lenten responsory after the lesson(s).

What's a Responsory?

A responsory is a short sung (or spoken) recitation of Scriptures. If you've prayed compline, you've already used a responsory. Immediately after the lesson(s) in compline, the ancient In manus tuas, Domine ("Into your hands, O Lord") is chanted. You can find it in the compline liturgies of both the Lutheran Book of Worship (p.156) and the Evangelical Lutheran Worship (p.323).

Historically known as a responsorium breve (short responsory), this form allowed the cantor to lead the congregation without the congregation needing printed music—a very helpful thing when books were rare and not all new members of even a monastic community could read.

  1. The cantor chants a short biblical text to a simple tone.
  2. The congregation repeats the line exactly as the cantor chanted it. text.
  3. The cantor chants another line.
  4. This is answered by the congregation with the closing half of the first line.
  5. The cantor chants a doxology, the first half of the Gloria Patri.
  6. The congregation chants the very first line in full.

Looking at the example of the Lenten responsory (at right), we would find it fully lined out as follows (with [L] indicating leader, [C] congregation):

[L]  I said, Lord, be merciful to me.
[C]  I said, Lord, be merciful to me.
[L]  Heal me, for I have sinned against you.
[C]  Be merciful to me.
[L]  Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
[C]  I said, Lord, be merciful to me.

There is an even shorter forms of the responsory used in the minor offices, but this is the form employed in vespers and compline. This form may also be used in matins (assuming one does not want to try a responsorim prolixum).

If you are looking at the image of the responsory (at right), you'll see that some of the text is truncated. This was a paper saving technique. The first few words of a line that is being repeated are sufficient to inform the singers. You'll also see the use of certain symbols. The asterisk (*) indicates the division between the first half and the second have of the response. This is important because the second response by the congregation will only be with the second half of the line. You will also see two special symbols, the responsum or response symbol (℟, or an R with a oblique bar) and the versiculum or verse symbol (℣, or an V with a oblique bar). The versiculum indicates portions of the chant that are sung only by the cantor(s). The responsum indicates those portions of the chant that are sung by the congregation (with the exception of the first line that the cantor sings to introduce the responsory).

While the text of compline's In manus tuas, Domine, is invariable, the responsories for vespers change with the seasons and for feast days and festivals. Click here to download the PNG image of the Lenten responsory.

Our Current Rubics?

Following the rubrics in both the LBW and the ELW, the place for the responsory is after the lesson(s) but before the versicle (e.g., "In many and various ways...") that precedes the Magnificat.

To review, the LBW rubric states,
9. A response to the reading(s) may follow the silence. After this the leader continues.
The general rubrics (notes on the liturgy) state,
9. ►Each reading is followed by silence. The silence may be followed by a response—one of the seasonal canticles (canticles 7-12) or a classic responsory, or any other appropriate response (e.g., instrumental piece, dance).
    ►"In many and various ways . . ." is said after the final reading (and its silence and response).
In the ELW, the rubric is as follows.
The reading of scriptures is followed by silence for reflection. Other forms of reflection may also follow, such as brief commentary, teaching, or personal witness; non-biblical readings; interpretation through music or other art forms; or guided conversation among those present.

The reflection may conclude with a scriptural dialogue. When it is sung, the following or a similar tone may be used, the assembly echoing the leader.
One can easily paste into your worship bulletin the graphic image provided above or write out the text, counting on your people to follow the cantor. If a congregation regularly uses responsories, it may not be necessary to print it out at all, the people simply following the cantor's lead.

Don't Confuse for the Versicle for the Responsory

In all Lutheran orders, there is immediately before the Magnificat a versicle, a short call in response. In the LBW, it is

[L] In many and various ways God spoke to his people of old by the prophets.
[C] But now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

The ELW has modified that language and added an alternative. The versicle, as an element in the vespers liturgy, is found very early in the development of vespers and should not be replaced with the responsory or otherwise neglected if there is any intent to preserve the historic form.

A Little More History and Reflection Upon the Rubrics

CAVEAT: What follows under this section is for those who want to dig into things.

The rubrics related to this point in the vespers service, beginning with the LBW, mark a significant leap in practice. If one traces liturgical practice to its monastic roots, vespers was not a place for preaching, instruction, musical performances (other than the actual chants of the liturgy), dance, or any other artistic exercise. Pfatteicher echoes this in his Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (1990):

The silence after each lesson is a constituent part of this portion of the service and must not be neglected. The office is not a traditional time for preaching, and the silence is an opportunity for the congregation to reflect upon the meaning of the words which have just been proclaimed. The silence is another way of preaching, another form of the proclamation of the Word of God (p.363).

Despite Pfatteicher's encouragement to return to much older practice, it must be recognized that vespers (evening prayer) in American Lutheranism had included preaching early on. Indeed, before it was commonly called vespers, it was simply called the Evening Service in the General Synod and General Council lines of American Lutheranism. Evening services were important in pre-twentieth-century American Lutheranism, especially on the frontier, because pastors were often conducting a service in one church in the morning, riding several miles on horseback in the afternoon, and then conducting a service in another church in the evening. The evening service was often the only service that a congregation might have during this time when pastors were not in great supply. Obviously, preaching was an indispensable part of the evening service under such conditions. The Common Service (1888) introduced an order of vespers that recovered much of the historic form, a significant move away from the forms for the evening service that barely looked like vespers. With respect to the rubric related to the responsory, we find this in both the Common Service Book (1917) and Service Book and Hymnal (1958):

¶ After the Lesson a Responsory or a Hymn may be sung.
¶ A Sermon or a brief Address may then follow.
¶ The Offering may then be received and placed upon the Altar.
¶ Then shall be sung the hymn.


¶ The Congregation shall rise and sing or say the Canticle.
¶ A Versicle shall be used with the Canticle

The general rubrics in the CSB and SBH are identical:

THE RESPONSORY. The Responsory varies with the Season and may be sung by the Choir after the last lesson.

We can see the sermon being made optional in the CSB—something that would have been considered very strange in the preceding generation. We also see the reintroduction of the responsory, but note that it is held as an option with a hymn being an alternative. Both the CSB and the SBH include proper responsories for the entire year along with the invitatories and antiphons.

Strangely, the LBW dropped the responsories while retaining the invitatories and antiphons. Pfatteicher makes reference to the responsories being available in the Worship Supplement (1969), but the LBW marked the de facto abandonment of the responsory in that the actual texts had become largely inaccessible. This was an unfortunate development. A liturgical element which invited the people to sing the Scriptures appropriate to the season in a simple musical form was effectively taken away. That said, the marvels of technology make them accessible again (though this webpage).

For those engaging in comparative liturgics, particularly in reference to the Roman Catholic tradition, the responsory might be a puzzler. The Liber Usualis (1961) does not include a responsory with vespers, but much earlier forms did, for example, the second vespers of the Nativity or Our Lord (c. A.D. 1250) as found in the Norton Anthology of Western Music (1980) in which one will find the beautiful Verbum caro factum est. Its location within that order is after the psalms and immediately before the hymn. Later reforms have restored the responsory, but the hymn has been moved to the beginning portion of the office. This reminds us that Roman Catholic liturgy has been by no means static across the centuries.

Introits for Lent and the Names of the Sundays

Just like Advent, each Sunday in Lent has a Latin name drawn from the introit that was historically employed at the beginning of the litugy (cf. Introits for Advent). Until the introduction of the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), these Latin names remained in use (from Luther's day through the tenure of the Service Book and Hymnal (1958).

Modern Name
Historic Name
Introit (SBH)
First Sunday in Lent
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him : I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him : and show him my salvation.
Ps. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High : shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Glory be to the Father,  and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost : as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Second Sunday in Lent
Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindness : for they have been ever of old.
Let not mine enemies triumph over me : redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.
Ps. Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul : O my God, I trust in thee ; let me know not be ashamed.
Glory be to the Father....
Third Sunday in Lent
Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord : for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me : for I am desolate and afflicted.
Ps. Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul : O my God, I trust in thee; let me know not be ashamed.
Glory be to the Father....
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her : all ye that love her.
Rejoice for joy with her : all ye that mourn for her.
Ps. I was glad when they said unto me : let us go into the house of the Lord.
Glory be to the Father....
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Judge me, O God : and plead my cause against an ungodly nation.
O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man : for thou art the God of my strength.
Ps. O send me out thy light and thy truth : let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill.
Glory be to the Father....
Sixth Sunday in Lent
(Palm Sunday)
Be not thou far from me, O Lord : O my Strength, haste thee to help me.
Save me from the lion's mouth : and deliver me from the horns of the unicorns.
Ps. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me : why art thou so far from helping me?
Glory be to the Father....

All the introits for the church year (as found in the Lutheran Common Service tradition) are printed in the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), beginning on p.75. The publishing house at the time of the SBH also sold introit books with music for choir. These introits continue to have music composed for them. You can search the web and find everything from unison singing for the congregation to SATB arrangements for choir. You will also find the texts in modern English. You can also find several historic arrangements that are in the public domain on the web with a little effort. It is also possible to set them to the psalm tones.

The introit was the first liturgical element of the historic western mass form. Literally, the Latin introitus means entrance. During the introit, the worship leaders would process into the sanctuary. Luther retained the introit in the 1523 Formula Missae (his reworking of the Latin mass) but replaced it with a hymn (based on the introit psalm if possible) in the 1526 Deutsche Messe (his German Mass). Muhlenberg's 1748 liturgy followed the pattern of the Deutsche Messe, and this remained standard among General Synod and General Council Lutherans until the Washington Service was introduced in 1869. The Common Service, introduced in 1888, made the use of the introit explicit but, at the same time, retained the singing of an opening hymn. This strange doubling of the introit/entrance hymn was eliminated in the LBW (1978) when the psalm, which was embedded in the introit, was given its own place between the first and second reading. The entrance hymn remained, the introit was functionally moved to a place among the lessons, and, at the same time, the first reading from the Old Testament was added (as the earlier form only had an epistle and a Gospel).

If one wants to reintroduce the introits for Lent, one might consider the following:

  • Use the introit in place of the entrance hymn. Even if one does this to a simple psalm tone, it can add to the solemnity of the service, especially if used in procession.
  • Have the choir, a small group of singers, or a soloist sing the introit as the last prelude piece before the service.

The traditional form breaks the introit down into two main parts, the antiphon and the psalm (with Gloria Patri). Let's look at the antiphon for Invocabit:

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him:
     I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him:
     and show him my salvation,
Psalm (with Gloria Patri)
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High:
     shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:
     as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The Common Service rubrics indicate that the choir shall sing the introit (or the minister may say it), the introit concluding with the congregation joining in at the Gloria Patri. The western mass form, however, would include a repetition of the antiphon following the Gloria Patri.

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West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod, ℅ St. Paul Lutheran Church, 309 Baldwin Street, Morgantown, WV 26505
304-363-4030  +  Porter@WV-WMD.org

Last update: 8 February 2024