What is the Lenten Array?

So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth…

Matthew 27:59

As you may remember, we acquired many vestments and hangings from St. John’s in the Village this fall, and used the “Sarum blue” items during Advent. We also brought home a full set of vestments and hangings in what is called “Lenten array”. This Sunday, members of the Altar Guild and the Liturgy Team will gather after the 10:15am service to consider whether we’d like to use it this year.

Lenten array usually refers to a rough or homespun fabric, raw flax or linen, or polyester fashioned to look like them. The fabric is either off-white or simply unbleached and undyed. It may have Lenten emblems like simple crosses, or a crown of thorns, nails, scourges, and the like. It may also have trim in dark colors like purple, oxblood red, or black. It can get quite ornate, although the point is to keep the worship space stark. See the examples below for a sense of the range.

Using Lenten array follows the medieval custom of using dark or drab colors during Lent to cover anything that might make a church feel the slightest bit opulent. Unbleached linen with oxblood red and black trim are particularly associated with Salisbury Cathedral’s practices, called Sarum Use. This is what we have now, an empty field of unbleached linen with red and black braid and fringe. It’s simple, though the trim adds richness. Come peek in the Guild Room on Sunday.

Trinity has always used purple for Lent, and it’s what I grew up with. When I first encountered Lenten array, it was a too mortification-of-the-flesh-y for my taste. Now, though, I have worn several different chasubles of rich purple damask with gold embroidery for Lent, and a simple Lenten array makes sense to me. What do you think?

In peace,