What is Lent?

 

By Rosie Moore

A history lesson today, which everyone probably knows but, I think, it always bears repeating at this time of the year.

The word “lent” comes from Old English “leneten,” which means “spring.” In Old German the related words “lenzia” and “lenzo,” which probably comes from the same root as “long” and referring to “the lengthening of days” as the earth moves from the winter solstice toward the spring equinox.

In the Christian church, Lent refers to the period of abstinence preparatory to the Feast of Easter. As this fast falls in the early part of the year, it became confused with the season and gradually the word Lent, which originally meant spring, was confined to this liturgical use.

The length of this fast and the rigor with which it has been observed have varied greatly at different times and in different countries. In the second century A.D. the fast before Easter was very short but very severe. Nothing was eaten for 40 hours between the afternoon of Good Friday and the morning of Easter.

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, that begins on Ash Wednesday which signifies the accounts of people in the Old Testament using dust and ashes as symbols of repentance and/or mourning.

Should a Christian observe Ash Wednesday? Since the Bible nowhere explicitly commands or condemns such a practice, Christians are at liberty to prayerfully decide whether or nor to observe Ash Wednesday; It is a time of self-examination and reflection. Sundays in Lent are not counted because each Sunday represents a “mini Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.

Let us remember that Lent is a time to open the doors of our hearts a little wider and understand our Lord a little deeper, so that when Good Friday eventually comes Easter comes, it is not just another day at church but an opportunity to receive the overflowing of graces God has to offer.

Thought for the day: A man’s worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes. Thomas H. Huxley

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