What is Lent?
Lent is a period of the year where believers prepare themselves through repentance of their sins, penance, prayer, self-denial, atonement and almsgiving. The 40 days of Lent are celebrated in the time that commemorates the death of Jesus as well as the burial and resurrection on what is celebrated as Easter Sunday.
When is Lent 2014?
The Lenten Calendar for 2014 starts on two different days: on Clean Monday (by Eastern Orthodox
Churches) which is celebrated on the 3rd of March and on Ash Wednesday which is celebrated on the 5th of March 2014. Lent goes all the way to Holy Saturday which is the Saturday before Easter Sunday. This in reality is 46 days but Sundays are not counted during this period.
Why Do We Celebrate Lent?
The 40 Days of Lent are celebrated mostly by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians as well as Eastern Orthodox Christians.
The period of lent is celebrated by different Christians in different ways and for slightly different reasons. There are those that will fast by abstaining from particular physical pleasures or particular foods for the 40 day period. The main purpose is to imitate Jesus in is 40 day fast in the wilderness which can be found in the Bible at Matthew 4:1-2. Some people will give up cursing, some will give up smoking, chewing gum, overeating, junk food, sex, chocolate etc. Anything that is indulgent. This is done so we can reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for us; his death, burial, resurrection and life.
While the Bible doesn’t mention actual Lent customs, it does mention repentance practices and mourning in ashes. Scriptures that support this include Esther 4:1, 2 Samuel 13:19, Job 2:8, Matthew 11:21 and Daniel 9:3.
Lent in the Catholic Church
Catholic Lent is the longest tradition of lent and fasting. Their lent tradition includes specific regulations for those who are celebrating the Lent season. They fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and also abstain from meat on all Fridays for the Lenten season. On fast days most Catholics eat a full meal with two small meals and the elderly and young children are exempt from fasting. It’s not just about fasting though but also about prayer and alms giving and focusing on Christ’s sacrifice and detaching from the world.
Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Church
The Eastern Orthodox Church are the strictest at celebrating length. They abstain from all animal products one week before Lent, eat only two full meals on the second week of Lent which are eaten on Wednesday and Friday. During weekdays members are asked to not consume, fish, meat, meat products, eggs, dairy, oil and wine. On Good Friday most members do not eat at all.
There are no rules on fasting for the 40 days of lent in Protestant Christian Churches. In the Episcopal Church members fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and also engage in prayer and almsgiving. Lent in the Presbyterian Church is voluntary and done to increase ones dependence on God and to help the believer to be able to face temptation and find guidance and wisdom from God. Lent is celebrated at will in the Methodist Church as well since there are no official rules to follow. Members are encouraged to celebrate Lent as a private matter. In the Baptist Church Lent is celebrated as a means of drawing closer to God but this is a private decision and there are no rules on the days of fasting or how the member should fast. In the Lutheran Church there is no imposition of fasting during Lent.
The purpose of the Lenten season for both the Catholic and Christian churches is to prepare us for celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection so we can be prepared for the celebration that awaits us. The celebration of Lent can help to provide a purified heart and mind by weaning us from selfishness and sin through our prayer and self-denial. This time is a period for us to create a desire in ourselves to do God’s will and by prayer and fasting we draw closer to God and in our hearts before we can meet him at His second coming.
Here’s a Lenten Prayer:
As I begin this Lenten journey I want to thank you for the opportunity that I have today – an opportunity that you freely gave when you gave your life on the Cross. I pray for a change of heart as I reflect upon your life and death here on earth and how this was done out of pure love for me so that I could be saved from my sin.
Lord I need your grace each and every day of this 40 days of Lent journey and every day going forward from the end of this Lenten season. Help me today and through this week to find moments in the background of my life that remind me of what you did for me and what I am asking you for today.
Help me by your grace to live through this sacrifice of fasting through Lent that I have chosen to make just as you were able to sacrifice yourself for my freedom. May the experiences ahead teach me how to be closer drawn to you, how to appreciate you more and how to live a better life as I await your return to earth for all your Children. In Jesus Name, Amen
We will be posting a prayer for lent and scriptures every week of this Lent Season.
Here is Week 2 of our Lenten Prayer Series. It talks about forgiveness.