The Practice of Lent


Celebrating the season of Lent (cuaresma) is one of the oldest practices of the Christian church. It was originally a time for new believers to prepare themselves for their baptisms, which were done on Easter Sunday. But it soon grew to be a time for all believers to prepare themselves for Easter by examining their hearts and lives and repenting of their sin. The English word “lent” means “springtime,” which is symbolic of the passage from death to life that we make when we die to self that we might be raised with Christ.  Lent begins today, Ash Wednesday, and goes through Holy Saturday (March 6 - April 20, this year). The forty days of Lent are symbolic of the forty days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert, the forty years that Moses and Israelites wandered in the desert, and the forty days that Noah and his family waited in the ark for the rain to cease. The six Sundays in Lent are not included in the forty days, because they are a Sabbath rest from the time of preparation. 
During Lent, Christians through the ages have used fasting, prayer, and the practice of giving up something for Lent to examine themselves and draw near to the Lord. While not required by Scripture, giving up a favorite food or habit for Lent can be a helpful practice of sacrifice. The time or money saved can be spent drawing near to God or caring for our neighbor. Worship during the season of Lent often involves singing songs of confession and practicing moments of silence as we wait on the Lord. Lent is not a gloomy time--even as we are called to examine ourselves and face our sin, we are reminded that we serve a God of mercy who calls us to return to him!