The Christian Season of Lent is a period of 40 days used to prepare for the 4 most important days of the Christian Calendar known as the Easter Triduum.
The word Lent is an old English word meaning spring. This season in the northern hemisphere coincides with nature’s move from winter to the spring. As we see the irreversible changes in nature, so during Lent God can bring about irreversible changes to our Christian lives.
40 days of Lent are set aside for us to prepare personally, practically and spiritually for the high point of the year. The number 40 occurs frequently in the Scriptures. Here are a few:
- The 40 days Noah and his relatives spent in the Ark
- The 40 years Moses lead the People of God through the desert to the Promised Land
- The 40 years of King David’s reign
- The 40 days Mary and Joseph had to wait before presenting Jesus in the Temple
- The 40 days Jesus spent in the desert
The themes of penance, pilgrimage, purification found in these passages are part of our celebration of Lent.
What are preparing for? What does it do?
During Lent, Christians prepare for the celebration of the Easter Triduum when they celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday; the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday; on Holy Saturday, the Church waits at the tomb of the Lord; and, during the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday they celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. For each Christian, the highpoint of this celebration is the renewal of Baptismal Promises during the Easter Vigil.
During Lent we can change. By tradition, during Lent, we give up something which we don’t like: being impatient; being uncharitable; being critical of others. It usually takes a period of six weeks to form a new, life- enhancing habit. Decide on a new, positive habit you want to adopt during this life changing season of Lent. Christians focus on three actions:
- Prayer – our daily raising our heart and mind to God. There are many ways of prayer and many different forms of prayer.
- Fasting – is not starvation. We may also give up food which we like as a sacrifice, choosing healthier alternatives.
- Charity – in either giving a donation of money saved from our fasting or giving our time to a cause or charity.
And, it all beings on Ash Wednesday
Christians in English speaking countries have a cross marked on their forehead. The Ashes are made from the Palm Crosses that were blessed in the previous year. These Ashes are a both a sign of witness and a visible reminder of the irreversible changes which God can instigate during the Season of Lent.