Lent will be observed from February 22 to April 3 this year. It is a period of religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar, marking the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert, enduring temptation by Satan. It is a period of grief, which is ended by a grand celebration of Easter. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later.
History of Lent
The exact date of origin of Lent is difficult to pinpoint. Early mentions of the season come from early Christianity, which records the tradition of fasting before Easter. The concept of fasting and forgoing indulgences such as alcohol, meat, and lacticinia during Lent was established by the Church. Over the years and centuries, there have been many proposed theories about the origin of Lent. The only thing for certain is the fact that these 40 days of fasting before Easter was clarified at the Nicene Council. In fact, the Council of Laodicea has deemed the Lent fast as “of strict necessity”.
The time and duration of Lent vary according to different Christian denominations. Even the way Lent is observed sees minor differences in different parts of the world. What is commonly believed though is the concept of the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The values of self-reflection, simplicity, and sincerity are also emphasized during this time.
It is customary for Christians to think about what Lenten sacrifices they will be making for the season. Lenten sacrifices often include chocolates, soft drinks, alcohol, meat, and even sinful behaviors such as swearing and sexual activities. While the sacrifices differ, the common idea is to abstain from certain pleasures or luxuries to mimic the temptation endured by Jesus in the desert. The faithful that make it through Lent can then indulge on Easter. Other common practices are to read daily devotionals and pray through the Lent calendar to get closer to God.
A pre-Easter fast tradition begins to emerge.
Lent as we know it is introduced following the Council of Nicea.
Criticism of the Catholic church and the biblical meaning behind Lent begin to emerge.
Celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Can you drink coffee during Lent?
While it isn’t common practice to give up coffee during Lent, you can choose to give it up as one of your Lenten sacrifices.
Is drinking wine a sin?
Wine in itself is considered a gift from God to make life more enjoyable. However, overindulgence in it is considered sinful.
Why is fish allowed during Lent?
Abstaining from meat during Lent applies directly to the flesh of warm-blooded animals only. Fish are cold-blooded and are therefore okay to consume.
How to Observe Lent
As the three pillars suggest, prayer is an important part of Lent. Choosing a method of your choice, whether it is attending mass or reading your own daily devotional, take some time out to pray.
This is another important factor of Lent. It doesn’t have to mean a full fast, it could even mean making Lenten sacrifices. Follow what you believe in and fast in the way your faith allows.
Service is encouraged during this season. Find out ways in which you can give back to society and get started on that. Every bit counts. If you’re unable financially, you could contribute your time and energy towards a service effort.
5 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Lent
It isn't exactly 40 days
Because Sundays aren’t included, Lent lasts for 46 days.
Starts with a party
Mardi Gras, a day before Lent begins, involves people drinking and eating indulgently before they start fasting for 40 days.
Fast, but not really
All Christians 18 and above are supposed to fast on Ash Wednesday, but that can include one big and two small meals.
Good Friday seems like a strange name, given what it stands for; there are talks that 'good' stood for 'holy' in earlier days.
Not all meat
While many give up meat during Lent, it doesn't apply to fish or other cold-blooded animals.
Why Lent is Important
It encourages spiritual growth
Lent is a time to attempt to mimic what Jesus Christ did in the desert to focus on God’s mission. Resisting temptation and fasting for some time is a reminder of what Christ went through and helps you establish a deeper connection. Prayer during this time is also a way to do so.
It promotes service
Doing good and leaving the world better than we found it is never a bad idea. One of the three pillars of Lent is this. It encourages people to do good and serve others for 40 days, and hopefully more, and give back to society.
It results in personal growth
Abstaining from certain pleasures for over a month is not an easy task. However, doing so with a clear sense of purpose makes it more accessible. During the period of Lent, making sacrifices, a person learns a lot about not only their faith but also themselves — their willpower, their reliance on pleasures, their strength in the face of temptation, and so much more.