10 Things to Know about Lent
- Lent is a 40-day period, excluding Sundays, leading up to Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter.
- Sundays are excluded from Lent because every Sunday is a mini-Feast Day – a celebration of Christ’s resurrection, which makes them inappropriate days for fasting and mourning our sin.
- Lent is among the oldest church traditions we celebrate. Mention of Lent goes all the way back to the council of Nicea in 325 A.D. (a gathering best known for producing the ‘Nicene Creed’) In the fifth of twenty canons the council produced, dealing with various aspects of church life, is mention of “tessarakonta” (which is the original Greek for ‘forty’) – a forty-day preparatory period leading to Easter.
- 40 days was adopted in imitation of the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness at the beginning of his public ministry, when he fasted and was tempted by Satan.
- Our word “Lent” simply comes from an Old English word for spring, which also means “lengthen” – because it’s the time of year when the days are lengthening.
- English is unique – in most other languages this church season is named something that derives from “forty” – “Cuaresma” in Spanish, Carême in French, etc.
- The beauty in the English word is it reminds us not to put too much emphasis on our own efforts at self-reform. Just as the days lengthen as the sun shines in the spring, and warmth and light increase, completely apart from our efforts – it is the Son of God who does the real work of lengthening our spiritual growth. Our job in Lent is to participate with God’s grace at work in us.
- Lent is very ecumenical – that is, Christians from all the main “branches” of the Church’s family tree, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants, mark Lent in some way. Because its practice started before the major schisms of the Church occurred, Lent is a good time to remember our unity as followers of Jesus.
- Lenten practices or disciplines are incredibly varied – and there is no one right way to mark Lent. Traditionally the church has encouraged fasting from certain things and adding other spiritual disciplines as a way of focusing on drawing closer to God.
- Lent is actually a joyful season! It prepares us for the most celebrated, most joyous of Christian holidays – Easter, the day of Jesus rising from the dead. This is the double focus of Lent – preparing our hearts and lives and rejoicing in God’s power and grace.
I hope you’ll join us at Alpine in hoping, rejoicing, and preparing our hearts and lives this Lenten Season. I can’t wait for Easter!