Lent 2018 Meaning: Lent is a Christian Year season, in which the Christians observe simple living, fasting and prayers. It is basically a sincere religious observance in the Christian calendar that starts on Ash Wednesday and comes to an end after six weeks. It generally falls at the beginning of March and goes until the middle of April month.
Hence it is a forty days long season without counting the Sundays which come in between, as each of it represents a ‘mini-Easter’. These were the days when Jesus had spent facing difficulties.
Lent starts on the second day of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), i.e. Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras consists of huge food parties, and so it is known as ‘Fat Tuesday’.
The purpose behind Lent is praying performing penance, confessing your sins and apologizing for the same. Lents is observed in the Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist and Roman Catholic Churches.
The words ‘Lent’ is originally derived from Anglo-Saxon words ‘Lencten’ and ‘Lenctentid’. ‘Lencten’ means ‘spring’, whereas “Lenctentic’ stands for “march”, the month in which Lent is observed. In the old times, many Churches had been observing Lenten preparations for Easter.
The celebrations in the Eastern and Western Churches were different from each other, for which Saint Irenaeus wrote a letter to Pope Saint Victor I, saying, “The dispute is not regarding the day, but is about the way in which the fast for the same is observed.
Some think that they should fast for only a single day, some for two or more days and some of them opt for fasting for complete 4o hours. Such type of variations did not originate in our own day, but very much before, in the times of our forefathers.’
The letter was written in Greek, which was then transformed to Latin. In this newly formed letter, the punctuations were put in between in ‘40’ and ‘hours’ in such a manner that it appeared to be 40 days, meaning that 24 hours a day for 40 days. Since then, Lent is observed for forty long days, following all the customs and traditions.
Significance of ’40’:
The number 40 has got a peculiar prominence regarding Lent. Moses had stayed with the Lord at Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights in order to receive the ten precepts. In these forty days and nights, he did not have food or water at all.
Elijah had walked to the Lord at Mount Sinai, for forty days and nights. Before commencing his public ministry, Jesus had fasted in the deserts for forty days and nights.
Atonement and reminiscence of baptism are the two most significant components which characterize Lent, as mentioned by ‘The Council of Sacred Liturgy of Vatican Council II’. In order to the liturgical practices of the Church, these two elements are the utmost necessary and should be given greater prominence.
These are the only ways by which the Church develops faithful people for carrying out the Easter celebrations, making them hear God’s words more oftentimes and dedicate maximum possible time towards prayers.
Fasting and absistence:
For all of the traditional 40 days of Lent, fasting and repentance are the two major observances. Three different customary practices are generally adopted; prayer, fasting and alms-giving.
Serving prayers to God during Lent means to give justice to God, fasting means doing justice towards yourself and alms-giving states justice towards your neighbors.
In ancient days, fasting was given utmost importance in comparison with the modern times. In some places, all animal products like flesh, meat and other byproducts of flesh such as milk, cheese and eggs.
Some places disallowed fruits and eggs at the time of Lent, whereas some places allowed selling fish and some allowed only bread. Most of the people observing fast refrain from food up to evening, for all 40 days of Lent.
Observances related to fasting and absistence:
In Jerusalem, people used to fast for 40 days and 40 nights, excluding Saturdays and Sundays coming in between. Hence, Lent would last for eight weeks.
The Romans along with some of the western countries used to fast for six weeks. They used to observe fast from Monday to Saturday, excluding Sunday, which hence made them observe Lent for six long weeks.
Refraining from all forms of meats and other animal products was the first rule of fasting followed for Lent. The second rule regarding the same stated that a person must consume only one meal a day, it might be in the mid-afternoon (3 p.m.) or directly in the evening.
The rules went many changes further allowing a small repast during the day to keep one’s strength maintained for manual labor. Later on, modifying the first rule, consuming fish was permitted, along with meat except on Ash Wednesday and Friday.
If a devotional work was performed, consuming milk products was allowed as well, giving this rule a complete relaxation.
Christians also use Lent as a time of intentional prayer. You can pray while you walk, create music or art as a prayer to God, or savor a time of quiet listening. All can be ways of becoming more in tune with God. Visit The Upper Room Living Prayer Center to request a prayer, pray for others, or learn more about prayer.
Alms-giving is also one of the important of the three customary practices of Lent. In this, people make voluntary contributions to assist the poor. Alms-giving signifies doing justice towards your neighbors.
Many of the Lenten customary practices have been modified over the years, making it simple and easy as well. As of the ancient times, Ash Wednesday even now marks the commencement of Lent and lasts for 40 days, excluding Sundays.
On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, only one meal a day is consumed that consists of all major cuisines. On these days and on other Fridays, people refrain from consuming meat. People are encouraged a lot to make sacrifices in these ways signifying that ‘If you give up something for Lord, tough it out. Don’t act like a Pharisee looking out for a loophole!