The Season of Lent

Sunday 11th March 2012

Originating in the fourth century of the church, the season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday, building during Holy Week with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and concluding on the Saturday before Easter. Traditionally, Lent was the time of preparation for those who were to be baptised, a time of concentrated study and prayer before their baptism early on Easter Sunday. But since these new members were to be part of a living community of faith, the entire congregation was called to preparation.

These days, Lent is marked by a time of prayer, and preparation to celebrate Easter. Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling.

Lent has traditionally been marked by penitential prayer, fasting, and giving. Some churches today still observe a rigid schedule of fasting on certain days during Lent, especially the giving up of meat, alcohol, sweets, and other types of food. Other traditions do not place as great an emphasis on fasting, but focus on charitable deeds, especially helping those in physical need with food and clothing, or simply the giving of money to charities.

More than anything, Lent should lead us to a time of repentance, as a way to focus on the need for God’s grace. It is a preparation to celebrate God’s marvellous redemption at Easter, and the resurrected life that we live as Christians.