A quick lesson on Lent – since it begins today!

lent 2014

Even though I grew up in a Christian home and attended church like normal Christians, I never participated in Lent. I had several friends who would make their own sacrifices during Lent, but I never really dug in to researching to understand the practice. Today, being Ash Wednesday, I thought it might be fun to take advantage of the vast knowledge that is Google and see what I could learn.

If you’re unfamiliar with Lent, or even if you are, you might learn a few things – I know I did.

So here we go…

Lent 2014 begins Wednesday, March 5 and ends on Thursday, April 17

Lent is a religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations that begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Day.

The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marks the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the tradition and events of the New Testament beginning on Friday of Sorrows, further climaxing on Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday, which ultimately culminates in the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

During Lent, many believers commit to giving up certain luxuries as a form of penitence. The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ’s carrying the Cross and of his execution, are often observed. Many Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches remove flowers from their altars, while crucifixes, religious statues, and other elaborate religious symbols are often veiled in violet fabrics in solemn observance of the event. Throughout Christendom, some adherents mark the season with the traditional abstention from the consumption of meat, most notably among Roman Catholics. In some Catholic countries, grand religious processions and cultural customs are observed, and the faithful attempt to visit seven churches during Holy Week in honor of Jesus Christ heading to Mount Calvary.

Lent traditionally lasts forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by the Devil. However, different Christian denominations calculate the forty days of Lent differently.

Ash Wednesday

Historically, the season of Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday and includes the Paschal Triduum. This duration has been maintained by most Western Christian denominations, including the Anglican Church, Lutheran Church, Methodist Church, and Western Rite Orthodox Church. However, after the liturgical abbreviations of the Second Vatican Council in the Roman Catholic Church, Lent is now taken to end on Holy Thursday rather than Easter Eve, and hence lasts 38 days excluding Sundays, or 44 days in total.

In modern times, observers give up an action of theirs considered to be a vice, add something that is considered to be able to bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.

The traditional carnival celebrations which precede Lent in many cultures have become associated with the season of fasting if only because they are a last opportunity for excess before Lent begins.

Mardi Gras

The most famous pre-Lenten carnival in the world is celebrated in Rio de Janeiro; other famous Carnivals are held in Trinidad & Tobago, Venice, Cologne, Tenerife, Mobile, AL, St. Louis, MO, and New Orleans, LA. It is known by the name Mardi Gras, Pancake Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday.

There are several holy days within the season of Lent:

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent for Roman Catholics and most mainline Reformed and Protestant traditions.

Clean Monday (or “Ash Monday”) is the first day of Lent in Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

The Sundays in Lent carry Latin names in German Lutheranism, derived from the beginning of the Sunday’s introit. The first is called Invocabit, the second Reminiscere, the third Oculi, the fourth Laetare, the fifth Judica. The sixth Sunday is Palm Sunday.

The fourth Sunday in Lent, which marks the halfway point between Ash Wednesday and Easter, is referred to as Laetare Sunday by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and many other Christians because of the traditional Entrance Antiphon of the Mass. Due to the more “joyful” character of the day (since laetare in Latin means “rejoice”), the priest (as well as deacon and subdeacon) has the option of wearing vestments of a rose colour (pink) instead of violet.

Mother’s Day

The fourth Lenten Sunday, Mothering Sunday, which has become known as Mother’s Day is an occasion for honoring mothers of children, has its origin in a sixteenth-century celebration of the Mother Church.

The fifth Sunday in Lent, also known as Passion Sunday (however, that term is also applied to Palm Sunday) marks the beginning of Passiontide.

Palm Sunday

The sixth Sunday in Lent, commonly called Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent immediately preceding Easter.

Wednesday of Holy Week, Holy Wednesday (also sometimes known as Spy Wednesday) commemorates the day on which Judas spied on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before betraying him.

The Last Supper

Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, and is a day Christians commemorate the Last Supper shared by Christ with his disciples.

Good Friday

The next day is Good Friday, on which Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.

Easter Triduum

The Easter Triduum is a three-day event that begins with a Holy Thursday and continues through Easter Sunday. Holy Week and the season of Lent, depending on denomination and local custom, end with Easter Vigil at sundown on Holy Saturday or on the morning of Easter Sunday.

Sunrise Services

It is custom for some churches to hold sunrise services which include open air celebrations in some places.

And there you have it! Lent and how it is connected with other “holidays or well-known days” during the 6-week timeframe.

So did you learn anything new? I will share what I learned in the comments.

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One Response to “A quick lesson on Lent – since it begins today!”

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  1. Gayla says:

    I actually feel like an idiot since I didn’t know this already – but I did not know that “Fat Tuesday” was associated with Lent. I knew it was the day before, but I never made the connection. I also did not know that Mother’s Day was part of the Lent celebration. I feel so enlightened now. 🙂

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