What is Lent? Lent is the six weeks before Easter is called the “Lenten Season”. It is a time to focus on the suffering, death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock.
The word “lent” means “lengthen” and stands for that time in spring when the days grow longer. The original period of Lent was 40 hours. It was spent fasting to commemorate the suffering of Christ and the 40 hours He spent in the tomb. In the early 3rd century, Lent was lengthened to 6 days. About 800 AD it was changed to 40 days.
Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, 40 days before Easter. Sundays are not included in those 40 days. Those 40 days correspond with Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness.
Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, is celebrated in many parts of the world with feasting. The French call it “Mardi Gras”. The Germans call it “Fausching”. The feasting comes from the custom of using up household fats prior to the 40 days of Lenten fasting, when no fat is used. Shrove Tuesday takes it’s name from “shriving” or forgiving sins. The word “carnival”, in relation to Mardi Gras means “good-bye to meat”.
Pretzels stem directly from Lent. The crossed arms of the pretzel were intended by German bakers to represent a Christian at prayer, with his palms on opposite shoulders, making a crisscross of his forearms.
During Bach’s day, often the organ and choirs were silent during Lent.
In early England, women of the parish traditionally spent Holy Week scrubbing the church, so it would sparkle for the Festival of Easter.
Lent is not like a New Year’s resolution. It is not about “giving up” anything. Lent is about making a special effort to give ourselves to those things that enrich our spiritual lives and draw closer to God. There are many ways we can open ourselves to such enrichment. What follows are some suggestions which you may prayerfully consider.
Read from the Bible daily and meditate upon the reading.
Set aside time each day for prayer, even a few moments. Allow it to become a good habit, turning to God as naturally as the sunflower turns to the sunrise.
Be present at the services of the church and Lenten journey.
Deny yourself some luxury and give what you would spend to the missions outreach of your church, or our local food pantry. The cost of self-denial should not be saved, but given.
Make a special effort to guard over your tongue this Lent. If you cannot speak well of others, say nothing.
Let self-examination be a daily function. Who is that person you view in the mirror first thing in the morning? Is it someone you’d like to know? This will allow the teachings of Jesus and the movement of the Holy Spirit to prevail in your life as you continue to grow spiritually.