The Season of Lent is upon us, and it is a special time where Christians practice prayer, penance, sacrifice and reflection in preparation for the celebration of Easter. During this 40-day period, believers are encouraged to focus on spiritual renewal and growth, and reflect on Christ's sacrifice on the cross for our sins.
History and Meaning of Lent
The word Lent itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning "Spring," and lenctentid, which literally means not only "Springtide" but also was the word for "March," the month in which the majority of Lent falls.
While the term is not directly identified in the Bible, Matthew 4 speaks of Jesus' period in the Judean Wilderness, where He spent 40 days and 40 nights in solitude, prayer, and fasting.
"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
Thus, the forty days of Lent represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan.
However, Catholic Education notes that the number "40" has always had special spiritual significance regarding preparation: on Mount Sinai, preparing to receive the Ten Commandments, "Moses stayed there with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights, without eating any food or drinking any water" (Ex 34:28). Elijah walked "40 days and 40 nights" to the mountain of the Lord, Mount Horeb (another name for Sinai) (I Kgs 19:8). Most importantly, Jesus fasted and prayed for "40 days and 40 nights" in the desert before He began His public ministry (Mt 4:2).
By the 10th century, the monk Aelfric tied the practice, which dates to the eighth century, to the period before Easter, writing, "Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast."
The purpose of Lent is to prepare believers for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ through purification, self-denial, and prayer.
In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or volunteering and giving of themselves to others. While some observers abstain from food, other believers make personal vows of abstinence during this day, such as refraining from meat or chocolate, vowing not to gossip, or practicing greater humility.
As you approach the season of Lent, work to decrease the things that detract from your individual faith journey and increase the things that strengthen it. During this sacred time, remember to reflect on your spiritual state, deepen your relationship with Christ, and thank Him for His tremendous sacrifice on the cross.
-Television, or your favorite show
-Gossip or destructive speech
-Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc)
-Selfishness and greed
-Coffee or alcohol
-Sweets and desserts
-Volunteer at a homeless shelter
-Spend time with the elderly
-Donate clothes, food, or money to a local charity
-Visit the elderly at a nursing home
-Make a meal for a friend in need
-Write a handwritten letter to a loved one
-Buy a stranger's groceries or coffee
-Take extra time before bed for prayer and reflection
-Call your far-away friends and family, instead of texting
-Memorize a Bible verse and repeat throughout the day
-Share the Gospel or your testimony with a stranger
We worship a Savior, who died for us and rose again that we might, through him, have victory over sin and death. The season of Lent focuses our hearts and minds on this wonderful truth. As you enter the Season of Lent, here are some Bible verses to reflect on.
Matthew 6:16-18 -"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
Isaiah 58:6-7 - "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen; to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"
Daniel 9:3 -"Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes."
1 Corinthians 10:31 -"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
Joel 2:12-14 - "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing- grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.
1 Peter 5:6 - "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."