What is Lent?
WHAT IS LENT?
Character requires discipline even as we depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. There are seasons in the Christian Calendar when we give ourselves to growing in Christlikeness both in depending on God and mastering ourselves as we concentrate on all that Jesus went through to purchase our salvation on the cross. Hence it is a marked by repentance, self discipline and self-giving as we meditate on the cross and the finished work of Jesus Christ our Lord. Lent (from Old English “Lencten” meaning Spring) refers to the fast of 40 days before Easter. The first mention of such a period occurs in the Canons of Nicea (AD 325 Canon 5).
The custom may have originated in the prescribed fast of candidates for baptism and the number forty suggested by the 40 days’ fast of Moses (Deut 9:9), Elijah (1 Kg 9:8) and especially our Lord himself (Mt 4:2, Mk 1:12-13; Lk 4:1-13). The Western Church normally left out the Sundays and the practice commencing from Ash Wednesday is first attested to in the 7th Century Gelasian Sacramentary. The period of Lent ends with Holy Week (Good Friday). Apart from fasting, this time of penance is observed by abstaining from festivities, by almsgiving, and by giving more to religious exercises.
The practice of omitting the Gloria and floral arrangements; and the reciting of the 10 Commandments are part of the tradition to emphasise God’s hatred of sin which culminated in the Lamb of God being the vicarious sacrifice for our transgression. Violet/Purple, the Liturgical colour signifies penitence and mourning.
THE SEASON OF LENT
The season of Lent is the 40 day period leading up to Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and recalls these events:
- The 40 days and nights when the rains fell during the time of Noah
- The 40 years of the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert, and most of all
- The 40 days when Jesus was in the wilderness.
As such Lent is a time of preparation:
- For God’s covenant with Noah
- For entry into the Promised Land
- For our fulfilling Jesus’ ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt 24:14)
OUR LENTEN OPPORTUNITY
In Mark 2:18-22 we see critics of Jesus who observed that His disciples didn’t go without food and drink from 6am to 6pm. The Pharisees were proud that they fasted (but often for the wrong reasons). What Lenten discipline will you be practising these 40 days in Lent beginning this Wednesday, 18.2.15 as we focus on Jesus’ fasting and being tempted in the wilderness (Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13; Lk 4:1-3)? Which of the following do you think is the best reason for praying, worshipping, fasting or doing good works and attending Ash Wednesday Service so that:
- Other people will think you are good?
- God will realise that you are a little better than most people?
- God may enjoy you and the time you spent with Him, and, that others may know Christ through your prayers and witness?