Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent, but what does that mean?
What is Lent anyway?
- It's the period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) preceeding Easter, starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday.
- Lent is symbolic of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by Satan.
- Lent is a time to remind ourselves of the consequences of our sin, as we look toward Good Friday, but also a time to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for our salvation, and to remind ourselves that our salvation is a gift freely given from God.
Don't only Catholics observe Lent?
- No. Although it has a longer history of being officially observed in liturgical church traditions, the meaning and importance of the Lenten seaon is bigger than any one denomination.
What's with all the fasting and giving stuff up?
- Because Lent reminds us of the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert, it's common for people to give up something they enjoy (food, activity, etc).
- Lent is also a good time to intentionally adopt a new spitirual practice or spend more time in devotion and prayer.
- Fasting from something we enjoy (and struggling to keep to the fast) makes us more reliant on the strength of God, instead of our own self-effort, because it often requires more determination than we typically have, espceially in our "I want it NOW" culture.
- You may also discover that the very thing you were sure you could never give up isn't nearly as important 40 days from now. Taking time to realign priorities, and distinguishing wants from needs isn't something we do nearly often enough.
That's a pretty simple introduction to Lent. If you'd like to delve deeper into the subject, check out: