What is lent anyway?

By Cayla Destefani

Just last Wednesday (2/18/15) Christian churches all over the world celebrated Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I’ll bet some people just went into panic reading that and thought, “No way! Is it Lent already? Does that mean I need to give something up?” Although many people use this Lenten season to try to actually complete their New Year Resolution of losing 10 pounds, giving up something for Lent actually has a lot more significance than just stopping a bad habit for 40 days only to pick it up again at Easter. There are actually 3 pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (Kale). Doing all of these brings Christians closer to God during the 40 days that precede Easter Sunday, and giving up a small pleasure is simply another way for them to sacrifice a small part of their life to focus more on God and the ultimate sacrifice that he made through his Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.

The whole point of Lent is to purify the soul, simplify the life, focus more on God, and prepare overall for the resurrection of Christ. The forty days of Lent are based on the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before he began his public ministry (Matthew 4:2, Saunders). There is actually no mention of Lent in the Bible, but it does mention the act of repentance and mourning over ashes (Fairchild). Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday.

Although many Christians do practice it no matter their denomination, according to Wikipedia the main denominations that acknowledge Lent are Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican, Calvinist, and Roman Catholics (“Lent”).

During Lent it is practice to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with only one meal and small snacks, then abstain from meat every other Friday in Lent, but fish is ok (Fairchild). Also, Catholics abstain from singing Alleluia during the Lenten season. This is because Alleluia traditionally means “Praise Yahweh” and is used as a celebration of the kingdom of God. But Lent is about preparing for the kingdom coming, not the kingdom having come (Richert). Some churches also make it a practice to empty the baptismal font during Lent to signify thirst and dryness. Also practiced during Lent is the praying of the Stations of the Cross, the 14 phases that Jesus went through during his Passion and Resurrection.

Sources:

Fairchild, Mary. “What Is Lent and the Lenten Season in Christianity?” About Religion. About.com, 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

Kale, Neela. “Why Do We Give up Something for Lent?” BustedHalo RSS. The Paulists, 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.

“Lent.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

Richert, Scott P. “Why Roman Catholics Don’t Sing the Alleluia During Lent.” About Religion. About.com, 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.

Saunders, Willim P., Fr. “History of Lent.” History of Lent. Catholic Education Resource Center, 2002. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.

 

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