Happy Ash Wednesday. If you do not celebrate Lent or if you do, either way, having an understanding of this observance will bring a little clarity to what Lent is...
Lent is the Christian season of preparation before Easter. In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 (some say 46 days) days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count).
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.
The focus of Lent was always threefold:
- It was a time to prepare new converts for baptism through intensive classes and instruction.
- It was a time for long-standing Christians to review their lives and renew their commitment to their beliefs.
- It was a time to be re-indoctrinated into the faith. In every case, it is supposedly a time for serious, disciplined self-examination. For most Christians, though, it is simply a time when they give up eating a favorite food.
Put simply, Lent is a time for self-examination. Here are some questions upon which everyone should meditate during Lent:
- Am I sharing gladly what I have with others, meeting others needs, helping those who are suffering?
- Do I have a gracious and patient attitude with others, am I patient with GOD?
- Is it time for a change or a growth in my Bible study and increase my own faith?
- What is holding me back or plague me to keep me from a life of faith?
- Am I as thoughtful and forgiving of family as others, or do I take my frustrations out on them, do I expect too much, are my expectations realistic?
- Do I speak up for the maligned and oppressed, or do I remain silent in order to remain popular?
Not all Christian churches observe Lent. Lent 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. What is Lent?
The Christian Season of Lent By Mary Fairchild, About.com Guide
The Bible does not mention the custom of Lent, however, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.
Google Lent or Ash Wednesday to learn more. Check out YouTube for more information regarding this celebration of newness of life.