Have you ever wondered what Lent is? Lent is a season to prepare your heart and mind for Easter. Dr. Lawson Murray unpacks the history and significance behind Lent.
This year, Lent begins on February 22, also known as Ash Wednesday.
What is Lent?
Lent is the period of forty days leading up to Easter. The English word “Lent” means “spring,” which is derived from an old form of the Germanic “lenz,” meaning “length,” because, in the spring, the days get longer.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with the Holy Week and the celebration of the “Triduum,” i.e. the three days that include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The six Sundays in Lent are not counted with the forty days because each Sunday is representative of a mini-Easter. Easter Sunday is also not counted with the forty days because it’s the beginning of the joyous Easter season of the fifth days, which includes the celebration of the Ascension and finishes on Pentecost Sunday.
The six Sundays in Lent are not counted with the forty days because each Sunday is representative of a mini-Easter.
The origin of Lent
The origin of Lent goes back to when the converts (catechumens) in the early church, after a few years of instruction, were required to spend forty days of devotion, self-denial and discipline in the final preparation for their baptism, which was on Easter Sunday. The catechumen’s final preparation focussed particularly on prayer and fasting and was modelled, in part, on Jesus’ retreat into the wilderness where He fasted for forty days, overcame Satan’s temptations, and then embarked on His public ministry (cf. Matthew 4:1-11).
The focus of Lent
The focus of Lent is a consideration of Jesus Christ and what it means to be a “new creation” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) and “redeemed” (cf. Galatians 3:13-14) by Him, i.e. what it means to have died to sin and come alive to new life in Christ.
Through the celebration of Lent, we prepare for Easter by thinking about the narrative of the passion-death-resurrection and, in doing so, take time to review and reflect on how we might progress in our faith. It is also a time for us to contemplate our propensity to sin and the need for confession, repentance, and contrition, i.e. let go of the ways of thinking, speaking, and acting that prevents us from growing in spiritual maturity.
The focus of Lent is a consideration of Jesus Christ and what it means to be a “new creation” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) and “redeemed” (cf. Galations 3:13-14) by Him.
Take time to hear from God this Lent
We encourage you to set aside the 40 days of Lent to pause, hear from God, and interact with Him through Scripture reading, contemplation, and prayer.
Great things can happen over forty days.
- Moses was never the same after he spent forty days on Mount Sinai
- Elijah was transformed after God gave him forty days of strength from a single meal
- Nineveh was completely reformed when the prophet Jonah announced that God had given them forty days before the city would be destroyed.
Be intentional and make this Lent a season of growth and preparation. Keep reading for resources to help you do that for yourself and your children.
Great things can happen over the course of forty days
Resources to help you and your family during Lent
iBelieve: Lenten words for growth, for story, for community ($9.95)
A collection of devotional readings to strengthen belief in Jesus and encourage us to live only all for Him.
Easter Family Time ($4.95)
A mini-book that encourages families to talk together, be creative, be hospitable, be Christ-centred and celebratory – includes activities for all ages.
Family Fun for Easter ($12.95)
Family Fun for Easter will help you share the meaning of Lent and Easter with your children in thirty family moments. It also enables you to explore faith in the home and have lots of fun together in the process!
Related Articles: Lectio Divina, Easter Family Bible Readings