THE CHRISTIAN YEAR – LENT

We are now in the Season of Lent, the fourth of the six seasons of the Christian Year.  Lent is a season of preparation for Easter, and in that respect is similar to Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas.  Lent is a time for us to give increased attention to our struggle against our sinful impulses and the sinful pressures of the world around us, and to work for renewal in our relationship with God.  Historically, Lent was a time when the disciplines of fasting, giving to the poor, and prayer were emphasized (see Matthew 6.1-18).  In some denominations, the practice of fasting has evolved into the practice of “giving something up for Lent”.

The season of Lent originated in the early centuries of the church as a period in which new converts (called “catechumens”), mostly adults, were given their final instruction in the Christian faith, in preparation for their baptism at Easter.  By the Middle Ages, Lent had evolved into a solemn season of penitence and fasting, in imitation of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and being tempted in the wilderness (Luke 4.1-13 and parallels).  The length of Lent was therefore set at 40 days (not including Sundays, however, since Sunday, the weekly celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, could not be a day of fasting).  So Lent always begins on a Wednesday, 6½ weeks before Easter: Ash Wednesday.  Since the date of Easter changes from year to year, the date of Ash Wednesday also changes.

The final week of Lent is called Holy Week, and during that week we commemorate the events of Jesus’ “Passion” — his suffering and death in Jerusalem.

The symbolic color for Lent is purple, signifying preparation and penitence.  The color for Holy Week is red, symbolizing Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross as a sacrifice for human sin.