Ash Wednesday, occurring this year, on Feb.13, marks the first day of the Season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ or Easter Sunday. In calculating the 40 days, Sundays are not included.
According to Christianity.about.com, Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ - his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.
Not all Christian churches observe Lent, but the practice is mostly observed by the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations, and also by Roman Catholics. Eastern Orthodox churches observe Lent or Great Lent, during the 6 weeks or 40 days preceding Palm Sunday with fasting continuing during the Holy Week of Orthodox Easter. Lent for Eastern Orthodox churches begins on Monday (called Clean Monday) and Ash Wednesday is not observed.
The Bible does not mention the custom of Lent; however, the practice of repentance with mourning in “sackcloth and ashes” is found in the Old Testament as well as the Gospels.
Here is a calendar of celebrations occurring during the Lenten Season:
- February 13 - Ash Wednesday
- March 24 - Palm Sunday
- March 28 - Maundy (Holy) Thursday
- March 29 - Good Friday
- March 31 - Easter Sunday (Western Christianity - Roman Catholic, Anglican Communion, Protestant Churches, etc.)
- May 5 - Easter Sunday (Orthodox Christianity - Eastern Orthodox Churches)
During Lent some Christians observe the season by Prayer and Fasting, described as two of the most powerful Spiritual Disciplines. During a period of focused devotion to developing a closer relationship with God, those who fast receive benefits, particularly in a spiritual way. More than sacrificing food for a season, fasting in a biblical context, as recorded in Isaiah 58, results burdens being lifted, freedom to those who are oppressed, as the glory of the Lord protects and guides continually.
For those desiring to know more about how to undertake a fast, a list of 7 tips of related to fasting is forthcoming.