Lent is the period leading up to Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. The Lenten season is a time for reading Scripture, repentance, fasting, and giving. Like Jesus’ time of fasting in the wilderness, Lent lasts 40 days.
Lent, like Advent, is often overlooked. Some reasons may include: preparing to celebrate Easter overshadows the Church season of spiritual preparation. Lenten activities require self discipline and perseverance over an extended period of time. Unlike Easter, Lent is impossible to market. Entire grocery store aisles are dedicated to selling Easter candy, but Lent is a time for fasting or giving up favorite foods such as chocolate.
While Lent may not grab our attention the way Easter does, observing it will help us grow spiritually and will make Easter much more meaningful. We need to take the time to unpack what Lent can mean as we prepare to celebrate Easter.
- Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, meaning spring, or “lengthen”, as the days are lengthening at this time. We experience a transition from darkness to light in spring; The Lenten season is about the transition from spiritual darkness to light, concluding with Easter.
- Repentance and fasting are disciplines that remind us of the darkness in our spiritual lives and help us move toward spiritual health and light.
- The transition from winter to spring is a process; growing in our spiritual walk through discipline during Lent is also a process. Just as the transition to the brightness and celebration of spring’s arrival takes time, our spiritual progress will also take time. At the same time, we can know that because Jesus died and rose again, his eventual victory over darkness will be complete.
During this Lenten season, we will be working through the book of Jeremiah. In this book, God speaks through His prophet, Jeremiah, but the people of Judah refuse to listen and repent, and then face terrible consequences. This is an important reminder that repentance may be difficult initially but is the path that leads to light and spiritual health.
This has been a cold and snowy winter, and it’s tempting to get impatient waiting for spring. Consider seeing this time, not as the end of a long slog to endure, but as a spiritual opportunity.
As you practice the disciplines of fasting, repentance and giving during Lent, observe how the days slowly lengthen. Plants need dormancy in the cold, and green shoots take time to mature into beautiful flowers and plants. In the same way, we need to work through the disciplines of Lent to flourish spiritually.
Families with children: Light a candle at sunset each Sunday during Lent and keep track of the times on a simple chart. Use it to measure progress toward longer days and the hope of Easter.
Remember the big picture: Our spiritual growth takes time and will progress imperfectly. Jesus’ death and resurrection ensure that light will eventually prevail in our lives and in the world.