Lent is a five-letter word. What! Just kidding. Chocolate, candy, and coffee companies dislike Lent – perhaps because people quit consuming it during the forty days of Lent. The two-fold purpose of Lent is to prepare catechumens for celebrating Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist at the Easter vigil and invite the baptized through prayer and penance to renew their baptismal faith at Easter.
Pope Francis offers a message for Lent 2021: a time for renewing faith, hope, and love. The Pontiff calls to experience Lent as a journey of conversion, prayer and sharing our goods to help us – as individuals and communities.
What is Lent?
Lent is a forty-day annual celebration inviting people for conversion in Christ. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) commemorating the paschal mystery: Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. Lent ends as soon as Eucharistic Celebration (mass) for Holy Thursday begins in the evening.
Where does the word ‘Lent’ come from?
The Anglo-Saxon word ‘lencten’ means spring or springtide. Whereas Lent in Latin is Quadragesima, literally meaning forty or fortieth. It’s the forty days preceding Easter.
Lent is Not Exactly 40 Days
It’s simple. Add the days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday – 46 days. What’s happening. The six Sundays are not included in the forty-day count. Sundays are considered as ‘mini’ Easter celebrations and are not strictly part of Lent.
Why is the number 40 important?
The Bible has spiritual significance with reference to the number forty. Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2), Moses fasted before receiving the Law (Exodus 34:28), and Elijah fasted before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb (Kings 19:8). It’s time for some serious preparation to take on the mission.
What are the 3 Pillars of Lent?
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the three pillars of Lent. These three things help penitents to experience the love of God and grow deeper in their relationship with God. Prayer is to establish a connection with God. Fasting is to avoid the distraction. Almsgiving is to share the experience of God’s mercy with others. I often say almsgiving is not because others need it. You give alms because you experienced God’s graciousness, and you want others to experience the same generosity of God.
It’s not strict fasting. Really?
Although Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting, you can have one full meal during the day. It is not a total fast for a day, you can eat a snack and drink water. The law binds all Catholics in the age group of 18 to 59 and exempts those with a valid reason. There is no point in cheating by eating more in the morning or evening and skipping lunch.
What is Abstinence in Lent?
Ash Wednesday and all Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence, except if a solemnity falls on a Friday. The rule of abstinence forbids eating meat for 14 years of age and older. You can eat fish but observe the spirit of Lent.
What about the custom of giving up something for Lent?
The custom of giving up something for Lent is purely voluntary – some give up alcohol, smoking, chocolate, or coffee. You will also notice people start the same habit after Easter Sunday. That’s not the spirit of Lent.
You don’t have to give up something for Lent
You can add a spiritual practice during Lent. Yes, you can give up something during Lent. Give up something that keeps you away from God. The focus is to add something meaningful to your spiritual life, like attending mass, joining the stations of the cross, studying the Bible – yes, spend more time in prayer. Give up the idols that keep you away from God: too much social media, TV shows, or too much computer time.
Confusion with what is meat
What is meat? The law requires to abstain from meat. But confusion exists. What is considered as meat? The church defines meat as coming from any animal that lives on land or in the air. Yes, fish is edible; chicken counts as meat. Although meat-based broths, gravies, or sauces are permissible but not encouraged.
Catechumens Prepare to Join the Community of Faithful
During Lent, catechumens prepare to celebrate the sacrament of Christian initiation: Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation. Candidates who are interested in formally joining the followers of Christ go through intense preparation. You may have heard it as RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). It is now known as the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA) – of course, there are adaptions for young people and children over the age of seven.
Did you know anyone can participate in Lent, not just Catholics?
You don’t have to be a baptized Christian. No excuse can keep anyone from partaking in Lent. Lent is a time to deepen our relationship with God.
Most Christian Denominations celebrate Lent
Except for Jehovah’s witnesses, most Christians celebrate Lent. Like Christmas and Easter, Christian denominations adhere to the Lenten tradition regardless of differences in beliefs. Roman Catholics and other Catholics rites, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Eastern Orthodox, celebrate Lent.
Lent became widespread after the 4th Century
The Lenten practice became popular only after Emperor Constantine declared Christianity as a State religion. During such times, the period before Easter became widespread in the church. That’s around 325, during the Council of Nicea. However, it took some years to take the shape of 40 days as a standard practice.
Why does the priest wear purple during lent?
You will see the priest wearing purple (violet or rose) vestments during Lent. Purple symbolizes mourning for the suffering and death of Jesus. The liturgical color purple serves as a reminder that we anticipate Christ’s suffering on the cross. Purple also represents royalty – celebrating Jesus as the King risen from the dead.
Easter Sunday is based on the Lunar Calendar
That’s the reason why Ash Wednesday is never on the same day every year. It changes as per the lunar calendar – 40 days before Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday falls on the first full moon of the spring equinox.
What is the popular devotion during Lent?
It’s Stations of the Cross – a devotion usually on Fridays of Lent and on Good Friday. The fourteen stations commemorate Jesus’s last day on earth, like a mini-pilgrimage through the passion, suffering, and death of Jesus Christ. You will notice the Stations of the Cross displayed in Churches and other pilgrimage centers.
Lent is a time for Confession
Lent offers opportunities to go for a confession. It’s the sacrament of reconciliation – seeking God’s mercy with a resolve not to sin anymore. Christian penance invites to hate sin as an offense against God.
No Wedding Mass during Lent
In keeping with the spirit of penance, wedding masses may not be celebrated during the Easter Triduum, on Sundays of Lent, Ash Wednesday, or during Holy Week. Nevertheless, marriages can take place at other times during Lent, with less extravaganza.
Changes in Mass during Lent
Alleluia and Gloria are omitted during Lent unless indicated otherwise. Flowers are not permitted to be around the altar except on the Laetare Sunday (the 4th Sunday of Lent), solemnities, and feasts. There are guidelines on liturgical music and singing in keeping with Lent’s penitential nature. There is an additional prayer over the people as an extended final blessing.
There is no lent without a plan. You can do several things – make it part of your list. As Pope Francis says: Lenten journey …illumined by the light of the resurrection inspires the thoughts, attitudes, and decisions of the followers of Christ.
Why not share the post with your friends – its a point of departure into a new journey. Thanks and Blessings.
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